A brown bear has been shot dead in southwestern France after it attacked a 70-year-old man while he was hunting for a wild boar.
The attack in Arij, south of Toulouse near the border with Spain, left the man seriously injured in the leg. He was taken by helicopter to the hospital where he is receiving treatment.
Local media reported that the unnamed man fired two shots from his gun, killing the bear instantly after confronting the bear.
A member of the hunting team told French news site La Depeche: “I was a little further away, I didn’t see what was happening but I heard the call on the radio. The bear attacked him and grabbed his leg, tore it and wound his other leg as well.”
“One person was able to stop the bleeding until help arrived.”
Another said bear attacks are becoming more common because of the lack of food high in the mountains.
The unnamed witness told La Depeche: “It doesn’t surprise me. They are getting closer and closer because there is nothing left to eat in the mountains. He shoots.” [the bear] Just to defend himself.”
An investigation has begun into the circumstances of the attack.
France began importing brown bears from Slovenia in the 1990s, when its population in the Pyrenees was heading towards extinction.
Fifteen years ago, France, Spain and Andorra agreed on a joint plan to repopulate the Pyrenees with brown bears, but only slowly due to concerns that more animals might threaten agriculture and tourism.
The numbers are down because loggers and wildfires have encroached on the bear’s forest habitat, and encirclement by humans over the years has provoked bears to respond forcefully on some occasions.
The population of the Pyrenees is now estimated to be around 40 bears roaming a long expanse of mountains along the border between France and Spain.
Bear attacks on livestock have escalated in recent years, from a steady number of 100-200 attacks per year across the Pyrenees to nearly 400 in 2018.