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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

‘Bears’ eat up Macedonia’s budget

A huge sum of money has been claimed by people in Macedonia who say bears have damaged their property

Bears have taken the blame for millions of euros of damage in Macedonia. Sharon Bailey / Rex Features
Bears have taken the blame for millions of euros of damage in Macedonia. Sharon Bailey / Rex Features

Roaming Macedonian bears have apparently caused 3 million euros worth of havoc by eating bees, honey, cherries, cows, sheep, and destroying agricultural items, according to a research conducted by the news publication Balkan Insight.

The bears have been found guilty of damage in around 700 court verdicts in Macedonia over the last five years.

The Balkan country is responsible for any damage that bears do to private households or businesses. The endangered bears are under the protection of the state and cannot be hunted.

Some regions are apparently impacted more than others, with the town of Bitola filing on average 100 suits per year between 2013-2017, according to the research.

The town, with a population of around 95,000, has claimed the highest amount of damages from the state.

To account for such a high number of incidents, either the number of bears in the country have multiplied and developed smarter ways to feed themselves, or, according to the Balkan publication, people have discovered a way to profit by suing bears.

The invesigation found that in many regions the same people appear as plaintiffs in different years or even several times in a same year.

Staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, who sit on the Commission for the Assessment of Damages, admit suing over damage apparently caused by bears can be lucrative.

One instance has seen 11,000 euros, plus €1,318 of court costs, be awarded for damage done by a bear to a beehive.

The court found that while the fences around the beehives prevented the entry of domestic animals and cattle, they could not prevent the entry of a bear.

A member of the commission, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to Balkan Insight, said: “When I joined the Commission for damages done by game, I faced a series of threats, because until then, according to the locals, the minutes were compiled in the offices of the ministry, where the citizens came to report”.

He reports that when he asked to go inspect the damage, many claimants dropped their cases which he said “shows they were making false claims”.