KASTORIA — A member of Arcturos brown bear sanctuary's emergency intervention team has captured rare shots of a mother bear and her cub raiding a cherry orchard in the region of Kastoria. Nikos Panagiotopoulos, who the photographs he took to the Athens-Macedonian News Agency on Wednesday, was patrolling the area after reports of intense activity by wildlife, especially bears, near inhabited rural areas and farm land.
Panagiotopoulos caught the burly mama-bear on camera as she made short work of a high fence placed around the cherry trees and beckoned her cub to follow:
"I saw the bear climb over the roughly two metre-high 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 said. He noted that the bear is currently nursing her cub and has been seen many times near Kastoria.
"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. If somone 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 advised.