Reporting. In the footsteps of the bear with the shepherds of Ariège

Lisa Laguerre, 23, recently moved. Since May 1, he has been a breeder in Ariège. It starts at Moulis, in the valley of the Couserans, on 45 acres of pasture, with a small herd of 80 Tarasconnaise sheep and 50 of the Scottish blackface breed. With her partner Sylvain, they have been married for two months. This summer, however, Lisa will not be climbing the mountain pastures. He would hand over his little flock to another shepherd.

Because Lisa was scared. Last summer, as an employee, he kept a herd of 750 animals on mountain pasture for four months. Very difficult. On the first night, June 7, we were attacked by a bear. And so almost every night … Twenty-one sheep were killed and eaten. From June 15, with Yves, my partner, we parked the sheep in a small park, to limit attacks. We had two Patou, and four more dogs.

“I yelled, it didn’t work”

Nothing succeeded. Even worse. Yves, a very experienced shepherd, 64, feared for his life. In 50 years in the mountains, I have seen greens and raw. But that, no. My last year. In the middle of the night, Yves heard Patou beeping. He exited the cabin. See the big white dogs retreating, the sheep running back. I saw the bear appear. I screamed, nothing more could be done. So the bear turned away from the sheep and hurried towards Yves. He is 15m from me. I ran as if I had never run before. Without the cabin, I would be dead …

The next morning, Lisa and Yves inspected the crowd. I saw vultures. I understand… At the bottom of the cliff, we have a sheep and a ramsaid Lisa. After these weeks of attacks, he understood. “We can’t sleep anymore; When we heard the bell of a sheep, we were afraid. »

I’m really not good at it. I will never go back. Not conceivable under these conditions. Everyone is advising me against it. So, in early June, Lisa will ride her 60 little lambs and disembark immediately. I feel like I will send them to hell …

Philippe Lacube, 59, heads the agricultural chamber in Ariège, but also the permanent assembly of the six chambers in the Pyrenees. Our department is the most affected by the bear. Of the total 80 to 85 bears seen in the Pyrenees, 95% is in the Ariège, mostly in the Couserans valley. This valley, very steep, extends into twenty small towns. And it was a disaster: 800 sheep were killed last year, in addition to 1,000 yet to be found.

His wife Magali Lacube, breeder and restaurateur, recounts how the bear’s presence was experienced in the valley, with feelings varying between “anger and determination, but constant unity and a form of resistance that drives us all” :

The major risk of bear concentration is very predictableJudge Philippe Lacube. It is the wildest place in the Pyrenees. Ariège, a poor and sparsely populated department (155,000 inhabitants) has 2,400 farms, 60% of which are stockbreeders, two-thirds of which are their own transhumance. We don’t transhumance for pleasure: climbing high mountains is an obligation to find fresh pastures. Without transhumance, I could only have 10 cows. So he had 80 Gascon cows transhumed, for meat, like his 80 black pigs. Alone, 30 years ago, he now heads a company with 25 employees. Because he directly sells his farm produce and runs a restaurant.

My model is the opposite of that of predators. I want a living, balanced mountain. The Pyrenees is the region of Europe with the most Natura 2000 sites: in Ariège alone, 60% of the territory is Natura 2000 classified! Our biodiversity is amazing…

The reintroduction of the bear made it tremble. France is a victim of the savage mirage. France has never been so artificial! And, at the same time, we released wild bears into the house. But Ariège is not a park, it is not an empty zone! It has 2,400 farms!

Sheep, then cow, then horse …

What does the state want to do with the territories? Let them go wild, leave the men? The sheep is an easy pantry for the bear. Shepherds are changing their habits, starting to leave the summer pastures, our mountains are gradually … To the Couserans, because there are no more sheep, the bear attacked the cows! We took the cows? “So the bear attacked the horses…”

Notes by Philippe Lacube an erosion in the number of breeders. It may not be viable. It’s slow, tricky, but the chaos is sure. I saw empty mountains with tall grass. In April, bears now follow herds near villages. Near the Ustou camp, two weeks ago, we saw one.

So they wait for the state with the right to defend ourselves. And that it recognizes our local governance. Two years later, Philippe met President Macron in Pau. In front of us, he made three commitments.

1. With no new introductions, bears are now old enough to breed: They were 50 15 years ago, they are 80 now, enough. The commitment continues, to this day.

2. Organizing locally, President Macron told us. Finished, the Mountain Parliament unites all the local actors. Out of state! Five seats are reserved for administrations: The seats are empty … Philippe was furious.

3. The possibility of introducing a problem bear protocol, because some are too dangerous. Nothing has been done, so far. “What are they waiting for? That a hiker, a sportsman or a hunter swallow?»

What Philippe observes is that this is a reintroduction of the bear endangering all of our biodiversity, which is a dangerous balance.

“If it’s a question of saving the Pyrenean race …”

Christine Tequi is the president (PS) of the Ariège departmental council and president of the future Parliament on the mountain, which she does. Slovenian bears were introduced to save the extinct Pyrenean breed. Without any consultation with localsChristine Tequi insisted.

If it’s still a question of saving the Pyrenean race, it’s different. But there, we were imported and we were parachuted from the Slovenian bear. It plays Frankenstein… It’s like introducing a cat to the canary aviary: an illusion project, an announced disaster.

Former mayor of Seix, he was the first to sound the alarm: In June 2019, I received a young hiker who had just been chased by a bear at over 350 m… I told the prefect, be careful, danger! He replied: no, it was just a meeting …

Tourism, outdoor games, hunting, fishing or hiking are affected. But the danger is greater than all agriculture: Pastoralism is on the front line. Breeders have stopped or changed habits, or even traded…

This reintroduction done without consultation is a sin …

Reportage. In the footsteps of the bear with the shepherds of Ariège

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