A mother bear and her cub were caught red-handed as they climbed over an enclosure to raid a cherry orchard in the region of Kastoria, northern Greece recently.
The scene was captured by Nikos Panagiotopoulos, a member of the team at Arcturos brown bear sanctuary.
He told AMNA he was patrolling the area after reports of intense activity by wildlife, especially bears, near inhabited rural areas and farm land.
Panagiotopoulos caught the burly animal on camera as she made short work of a high fence placed around the cherry trees and beckoned her cub to follow:
“I saw her climb over the roughly two meter-high (six-foot) fence with ease, showing her cub how to do it as well. She got into the orchard and stripped the tree bare of cherries,” he explained.
He noted that the bear is currently nursing her cub and has been seen many times near Kastoria.
Last year, a mother bear and her three cubs broke into a farm in Metsovo, northern Greece, and after they gobbled up all the fruit they could find they washed it down with the ouzo and tsipouro that was being stored in a shed.
The tipsy, yet adorable, culprits were filmed as they were running away from the scene, local website epiruspost.gr reported.
Plastic bottles containing the two iconic Greek liqueurs were found lying on the floor of the shed, half empty. Fruit trees all over the farm were left bereft of their fruit.
Bears eat lots of fruit to build up fat
“During this period she eats huge quantities of fruit, such as cherries and cherry plums, in order to build up fat and get ready for winter hibernation,” Panagiotopoulos explained.
The main problem, he added, was that a bear climbing a tree to eat the fruit also breaks and bends the branches, damaging the tree in the process, as well as eating huge amounts — as many as five kilos of fruit at one sitting.
He advised farmers to avoid bear “raids” by promptly collecting fruit and other edibles, keeping the ground around cultivated land clear of undergrowth and cover that bears might hide in, placing good sheep dogs on guard and, where possible, investing in electrified fencing to deter wild animals.
“Two well-trained dogs will frighten a bear and it will stay away, especially if she’s a mother and has a cub; she won’t easily go looking for trouble,” Panagiotopoulos said.
“If someone encounters a bear, the best thing to do is keep calm – as far as this is possible – and not make threatening movements directed at the bear or her babies with various objects but slowly back away, giving the animal a way to escape,” he added.
Brown bears in Greece
The fact that there are wild bears in Greece is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. However, according to the latest research data, the total brown bear population in the wild in Greece is at least 700.
They roam the forests and mountains of Northern Greece. Northern Pindos National Park is home to not only brown bears but also roe deer and even wolves.
Arcturos is a non profit, non governmental, environmental organization (NGO) founded in 1992, focusing on the protection of wildlife fauna and natural habitat, in Greece and abroad.