An Austrian prince suspected of shooting Romania’s largest bear in a trophy hunt is facing an official investigation.
Prince Emanuel von und zu Liechtenstein reportedly paid €7,000 (£6,000) to target a female bear with cubs after a farmer complained that she had repeatedly damaged crops.
Instead, Arthur, a 17-year-old male brown bear, was killed in the Carpathian Mountains last month, Romanian environmental group Agent Green said.
Official hunting documents confirmed that the prince was granted a four-day hunting permit in March in Romania’s Covasna County and that he “harvested” a 17-year-old brown bear.
Romania, which has one of the largest brown-bear populations in Europe, banned trophy hunting in 2016, but permits to kill “problematic” bears that damage farm crops or pets may be issued to hunting associations if relocation measures fail. These permits are sometimes sold to trophy hunters.
The environment ministry gave special approval for the shooting of the female, Agent Green said.
Environment minister Barna Tancos announced an investigation into the shooting, and a senior official, Octavian Berceanu, said poaching was suspected.
“Complaints and requests [to shoot troublesome bears] come almost daily from several areas,” Mr Tancos said, calling the case “extremely complicated”.
“All of the papers from National Environmental Guard will go to the police,” Mr Berceanu said, adding that some official papers required after a bear kill were missing.
Agent Green, which says it had monitored Arthur for nine years, said it lived deep in the wild and had no contact with human settlements.
Gabriel Paun, the group’s president, questioned how it could be possible to confuse “the biggest male living deep in the wild against the much smaller female next to the village”.
“Every farmer I spoke to in the village of Ojdula said that nothing had changed since the male bear was shot, and that the female bear continues to come daily to households,” Mr Paun said.
Repeated attempts by AP and other media to contact the prince’s estate were unsuccessful. Switzerland’s Blick newspaper quoted the prince as declining to comment.
Of bear hunting generally, biologist and wildlife expert Csaba Domokos told AP: “Hunting associations use damages as a pretext to shoot the trophy bears. The exceptions are the cases when they use it to shoot a problematic bear.”
UK-based International Animal Rescue is launching a campaign, Break The Cage, against bear poaching, calling for higher fines in Armenia, where poaching is common.