Tragic traffic accident in Slovakia proves bears need Alps-Carpathians corridor



Posted on 04 October 2012  | 
Vienna, Austria – A brown bear on the centuries-old trail between the Carpathian Mountains and the Alps, was run over by a truck while trying to cross the Slovakian D2 highway close to the Austrian border. This is the first brown bear to appear in this border region since 1984.

"The collision took place just 900 meters away from the spot where a green bridge over the D2 highway is planned to be built”, said Christian Pichler, Large Carnivores Expert at WWF Austria. “In effect, the bear proved that the experts definitely chose the right spot for the green bridge”.

It is hoped that the death of the bear will help save the lives of other large carnivores. About 80,000 wild animals in Austria end up as victims of road accidents every year.

The Alps-Carpathians corridor

Roads and settlements increasingly cut through the traditional 150 kilometres long green corridor that connects the Alps with the Carpathian Mountains, while intensive farming and fenced forests have meant that wildlife habitats have shrunk even further. For brown bears, deer, wild cats and many other migratory species, a functioning Alps-Carpathians corridor is therefore essential for their survival.

With the support of the European Union and many partner organizations, WWF is currently working to keep open the landscapes between the two mountain ranges and to link disconnected habitats.

These measures are crucial for Europe’s brown bears, which once populated the entire Alpine region. However, habitat destruction as well as hunting have caused a sharp decline in bear populations. Today only 45 to 50 bears remain in the Alps. They are mostly found in northern Slovenia and Italy. In comparison, about 8,000 bears still live in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia.

"Alpine bears can only survive if they are connected with their neighboring bear populations in the Carpathian Mountains. This is the only way for them to exchange genetical material and settle into new habitats”, Pichler said.

Wildlife corridors are also important for the safety of people. Traffic accidents involving large carnivores, such as the one on the D2 highway in Slovakia, pose a major threat to drivers. Green bridges allow people and animals to live side by side, avoiding dangerous encounters.

WWF’s work on the Alps-Carpathians corridor comprises spatial planning measures, including the 150 kilometres long green corridor that shall link the two mountain ranges again. At the spots where four highways cross this corridor in Austria, four wildlife passages have opened or are under construction. The next project to be completed is the green bridge in Lower Austria – not far from the Slovakian D2 highway.
Today only 45 to 50 bears remain in the Alps. In comparison, about 8,000 bears still live in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania, Poland, Ukraine and Slovakia.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon Enlarge

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