Their majesty and strength may give an impression of invincibility, but brown bears living in northern Turkey are facing extinction as they are forced to venture outside their natural habitat for food, a new study of the animals has found.
In a bid to secure the future of the endangered bears, a group of environmentalists have launched a monitoring program to analyze their daily behavior and provide for their needs. The group, headed by the renowned migratory bird expert Çağan Şekercioğlu, pinned trackers and cameras to 11 bears living in the Sarıkamış region of the northeastern province of Kars.
According to data collected so far, most of the bears are feeding themselves at the garbage dump of the district center of Sarıkamış, which requires them to dangerously cross the railway connecting the cities of Erzurum and Kars.
“Brown bears need large areas to live in, but their living space is getting narrower each day,” Şekercioğlu said.
He explained that the uncontrolled hunting of wild animals such as deer and wild boars, which are the main sources of the bears’ sustenance, was pushing them to venture further and take more risks in the search for food.
“When they descend to the Sarıkamış garbage dump, they are either killed by illegal hunters or by train wagons. We need to open a wildlife corridor of 162 kilometers to help them live,” he said.
Recently, locals in the neighboring province of Artvin launched a crusade against bears who descended into their valley villages to find food. In their campaign, villagers even lobbied for an increase in the legal hunting quota in order to reduce the population of the animals in the region.