France seeks killer of bear shot in Pyrenees

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Foix (France) (AFP)

French experts will carry out an autopsy Wednesday on a young brown bear discovered dead in the Pyrenees mountains this week with gunshot wounds, in a bid to ascertain who killed the animal, local authorities said.

The creature was a male about four or five years old, weighing some 150-200 kilogrammes (330-440 pounds), according to Chantal Mauchet, a local official of the Ariege department of southwest France.

This was the second brown bear found dead this year in the Pyrenees, where it is a protected species.

"Everything possible is being done to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators," Laurent Dumaine, the prosecutor of the commune of Foix, told journalists, adding an autopsy would be performed at the veterinary school in Toulouse, the nearest big city.

An investigation has been opened for "unauthorised destruction of a protected species," said Dumaine. The crime is punishable by three years in jail and a fine of 150,000 euros ($170,000).

The bear has not been identified as it was not wearing a tracking collar.

Its cadaver was discovered Tuesday near a ski station close to the Spanish border by biodiversity officials investigating complaints from local farmers about sheep killings.

The bear's carcass was evacuated by helicopter.

The state and animal activists have filed criminal charges.

"A bear was discovered shot dead," Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote on Twitter, along with harrowing pictures of the dead animal.

"Bears are a protected species, this act is illegal and strongly condemned. The state will file a complaint," she said.

Close to extinction in the early 1990s, the brown bear was reintroduced to the Pyrenees in the early 1990s, with animals brought in from Slovenia. There are about 50 of them today.

But the creatures' presence has caused tension with livestock farmers, whose animals risk becoming bear food.