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Banner Regional Platforms on People & Large Carnivores

Information on the regional platform on people and large carnivores in Harghita county, Romania. Find general information on the regional platforms as well as the ones in France, Germany, Sweden, Italy and Spain here.

A platform has been established in Harghita county focusing on the impact of bears on human activities.

Map Regional Platform on People & Large Carnivores Spain

Platform news:

New reports and studies listed under Platform outcomes

Geography and large carnivore populations [1]

Romania is located at the east of the European Union (EU) and became a member in 2007. Romania has an area of 238,391 km², characterized by approximately equal shares of mountains, hills and plateaus and planes. Around one third of the territory is covered by forest, while almost two thirds are used for agricultural purposes. The wide areas of forests along the Carpathian Mountains as the largest unfragmented forest areas in Europe, provide a valuable habitat for numerous species, including large carnivores, of which Romania has the largest populations of any EU country. The bear population size of the country is estimated to 6,000-6,600 individuals, its wolf population to 3,000 individuals, it lynx population to 1,200-1,500 individuals.

Impacts of large carnivore populations [1,2]

Given the significant large carnivore populations, encounters between humans and large carnivores, especially bears, are not new to Romania and damages of crops, livestock as well as attacks on humans occur. Compensation schemes exist, but have been criticised for involving a high level bureaucracy and long waiting times. Schemes to prevent damages have been funded through individual projects but are not available everywhere. Large carnivores have the potential to attract tourists and hunters bringing economic benefits, but certain tourism and hunting practices have also been criticised for their conservation and human impacts.

Management of large carnivore populations [1,2]

All species are strictly protected under Annex IV of the EU Habitats Directive. Up until 2016, large carnivores were managed as protected game species with quotas based on a derogation system under the Directive. In 2016, hunting of brown bear and wolf however was prohibited leading to a lively debate nationally about the role of hunting activities in population management. The national Action Plan for Conservation of the Brown Bear in Romania by the Romanian Ministry of Environment re-established hunting as a management method in 2018 but is yet to be fully implemented. Debates on methods for the accurate estimation of population are continuing.

Lake Saint Ann in Harghita County
Bear habitat in Baile Tusnad
Electric fence and bear-proof bins in Baile Tusnad, Harghita County

Figures [3]

  • Area: 6,639 km²
  • Human population: approx. 311,000 inhabitants (2011 census)
  • Population characteristics: 86.43% Hungarians | 13.15% Romanians | 0.37% Roma
  • Administrative divisions: 9 towns, 4 municipalities, 58 communalities and 236 villages

Geography [3]

Harghita county is surrounded by the Eastern Carpathians in Transylvania and 1/3 of its area is well covered by forest. With a long snow period and a landscape formed by hilltops and closed depressions, the county is characterized by abundant wildlife and a strongly seasonal climate.

Governance [3, 6]

Harghita is one of the 41 Romanian counties each administered by a county council. The Harghita County Council consists of 30 councillors and their elected president. The council last was elected in the 2016 local government elections. It is responsible for public services, financial administration of county taxes and implementation of programs on economic and social development. Harghita County Council is also project partner of several EU funded regional development projects.

Harghita County Council also takes responsibility for coordinating information on large carnivores, and maintains a webpage “Damage caused by wild animals” with latest news and official documents on bear population, incidents and management decisions. Harghita’s Environmental Protection Agency (APM) is a public service sub-section of the National Environmental Protection Agency (ANPM) under the Ministry of Environment, and was involved in the Life Ursus project, for example.

Overarching management decisions on large carnivore conservation, derogations, hunting, compensation and prevention measures are taken on the national level by the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change while the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is responsible for decisions on agricultural financing.

Main economic activities [3-5]

Timber, along with construction material, clay and salt builds the main pillar of Harghita’s economy. Consequentially, forestry is the dominating land use, followed by pastures, grassland and pastures. Cereals, feed and potatoes are the main cultivated crops in the county.

The tourism sector, with several protected areas, attracts nature tourists by offering various outdoor activities (especially winter sports). Agrotourism in the rural landscape is also popular and invites to discover cultural sites and traditional products.

Impacts of bears on

  • Agriculture, livestock raising and beekeeping (damages to crops, livestocks, bees)
  • Human safety (proximity of bears to human settlements and bear attacks)
  • Unregulated touristic activities (bear watching)

Estimated bear population: 700-1,350 (2014) individuals [4]. Thus, Harghita, along with Covasna, Brasov and Vrancea, is one of the counties where bear density is at higher levels in Romania.


Platform Outcomes

Guide to damage prevention and damage compensation in Romania (also available in HU)

Summary of results of monitoring brown bear tracks from 2019-2020

Report on installed damage prevention measures (HU)

Study for the assessment of effects of artificial feeding and tourism activities on bears in Harghita county

Report of training and communication activities for human-bear conflict management and damage compensation practices in Harghita

Platform Events

On 19 November 2019, the platform organized a joint regional workshop with the EU Platform. Access the workshop report for further details of the meeting.

Harghita regional platform meetings
Harghita regional platform meetings
Harghita regional platform meetings

Participating stakeholders

The following participants have taken part in platform meetings:
  • Harghita County Council
  • Environment Protection Agency
  • Hunting associations
  • Farmers associations (Organic farmers, young farmers, sheepherders etc.)
  • Beekeepers
  • Managers of Natura 2000 sites
  • Gendarmerie
  • Rural Development associations
  • Tourism associations
  • Foresters
  • Local newspapers

Platform activities

Step 1: Scoping

The project team carried out three fact-finding missions in Romania to examine ongoing discussions between stakeholders and potential areas of conflict on the national and regional levels.

Step 2: Establishing a process

A first stakeholder workshop has been carried out to define the scope of the Platform.

A second workshop has been done with focus on problem and goal analysis for participatory decision making.

A third workshop has been organized which summarized the results of problem and goal analysis, and an analysis of interests of different stakeholder groups.

Step 3: Implementation

The fourth workshop finalized the ranking criteria for potential joint activities and started to brainstorm such activities based on the problems perceived.

The fifth and sixth workshop served to rank the actions using the selected criteria.


Useful links/Sources:

Further LIFE projects on large carnivores in Romania