Romania has given town and city authorities the power to shoot bears that break into yards and houses, angering environmental groups who said the government should try other techniques to manage the protected animals.
The government said the new order was a short-term measure to stem a rise in bear attacks and sightings of the wild animals in built-up areas, though it did not give figures.
The European Union state has Europe’s largest population of brown bears – an estimated 6,000 – outside Russia.
Newspapers carry regular reports of attacks on humans and livestock and of bears breaking into kitchens and colliding with cars.
Before Wednesday’s government decree, local authorities needed the approval of the environment ministry every time they wanted to dispose of a dangerous bear.
Under the new rules, authorities are still encouraged to try chasing off the bear or tranquilising and relocating it before resorting to guns.
But environmental protection groups Agent Green and WWF said they worried that shooting would now become the rule not the exception. Authorities had also not done enough to try other prevention measures including electric fences, they said.
Environmental groups say sightings have increased as the animals’ habitats are threatened by construction, logging and climate change.
Many bears are also attracted by illegal rubbish dumps on the outskirts of cities and by food left by tourists.
“Until a thorough waste management solution is in place it is only a matter of time before the next bear comes along,” Csaba Domokos of nature conservation NGO Milvus Group said.