More than 200 sheep have died after they hurtled over the edge of a cliff in the Pyrenees mountains while being chased by a bear.
Their deaths have reignited the bitter debate over the presence of bears in the mountain range, where they were reintroduced 20 years ago.
The sheep belonged to a farmer in the Couflens area on the French side of the border, but their bodies were found last Sunday at the foot of a cliff just over the border in Spain. The rest of the large flock was missing after dispersing over the mountains while fleeing the attack.
Local authorities sent experts to examine the scene during the week and they concluded that the sheep had been running away from a bear. Then, totally scared, the 209 sheep sprang down the cliff, committing another mass suicide after that in Turkey 10 days ago.
The sheep’s owner will be compensated for each of the 209 animals found dead. But the deaths provoked an angry statement from the militant Confédération Paysanne (Farmers’ Federation) which demanded immediate action to stop deadly attacks by bears on livestock: “The state, which is responsible for the reintroduction of the bears, should remove the ones that are causing problems and should not reintroduce any more bears.”
A few weeks ago, 80 sheep also committed suicide in Turkey. Like in France, the culprit may also have been a hungry bear.