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The High Tatras - Encountering a Bear

The Tatras National Park is the home of the brown bear, the biggest Slovak beast. Today about 50 bears live in the area of National park. Brown bear is a shy, timid beast with excellent hearing and sense of smell, but weaker eyesight. In normal situations keeps distant from people. However recently some of the bears, i.e. about 5% of them, find its food in the garbage near cottages or in the Tatra settlements. These so-called "waste bin" bears have lost their natural shyness, and afraid. They approach waste bins often in the daytime, even in densely populated neighbourhoods.

tatry, brown bear sniffing
Standing bear listening and intensively sniffing.
Trapped bears are kept by TANAP park workers in a special cage and are alocated to less frequented areas. In some rare instances the bears have to be shot. So long, sixteen bears have been caught and relocated and eight have been shot.

For cases that a hiker or walking visitor encounters a bear in the National park, is suggested:

  1. Not to leave the marked hiking paths
  2. To warn of your presence in a normal voice, especially early in the morning, or in the evening, when bears are still active.
  3. Not to approach a bear in any case even if it looks peaceful. It is a beast, thus, unlike a dog, its face is not developed to mimic emotions, therefore it is difficult to assess its behaviour.
  4. If all previous instructions are kept in mind, it is possible to avoid these unpleasant situations. Yet, even, if despite an attack, which is usually sudden and very fast, occurs, it is recommended not to defend yourself actively. On the contrary, stay motionless for a few minutes after being thrown down by the bear, since movement can incite the bear re-attack in case the bear remains nearby.

However watching bears in the open countryside remains for the most part an unforgettable experience, and not a fight for life. It should be mentioned that bears, like other wild animals, are dangerous to people only when they feel endangered or surprised, or defeating their cubs, or if suffreing from an injury or a disease. The tourists can avoid a bad experience by their careful and respectful behaviour.

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