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Shepherds mauled in Romania bear attack

© AFP/File | A spate of recent bear attacks has reignited debate over a government decision to suspend its annual culling programme

MIERCUREA CIUC (ROMANIA) (AFP) - 

Two shepherds were seriously injured in a bear attack Saturday in Romania's remote Carpathian mountains, reigniting debate over a government decision to suspend an annual culling programme.

The men, whose injures are not thought to be life-threatening, were tending their sheep when they were attacked in the central Harghita region, according to a local official quoted by the Agerpress news agency.

One of the men was bitten on his head, hip and genitals, the official said.

Romania is home to around 60 percent of Europe's brown bears -- some 6,000, a quarter of which roam the mountains around Harghita.

There have been seven bear attacks there in 2017 alone, prompting anger among locals.

Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday outside the environment ministry in Bucharest demanding they be allowed to kill brown bears in the interest of safety.

The ministry responded by proposing a cull of 140 of the animals.

Romania last year suspended its annual authorisation of the extermination of more than 500 bears, a programme that had angered environmentalists.

"I think it is humans who are responsible for these animal attacks because they encroach on their territory," said local Harghita official Jean Andrei.

© 2017 AFP