The number of brown bears in Estonia has been rising over the past 15 years and this year is set to reach almost 1,000, ETV news show 'Aktuaalne kaamera' reported Monday evening. The Environment Agency (Keskkonnaagentuur) cautions the public to be vigilant when walking in forested areas, even quite close to the capital, as the animals can be more dangerous to humans when they have litters of cubs in tow, than at other times.
One rural resident, Katrin Karro, who lives in Vaida, about 20km out of Tallinn, told AK about a recent encounter which required calling in the services of a hunting dog to ward off a bear family who spent a lot of time near the village thoroughfare.
"We came by bike from home, cycling to the village center when we heard some rustling in the woods. I told the child that I guessed it would be a fox we were about to see.
"Then I looked, and saw a small, dark bundle, which I realized it was a little bear cub. I looked up, and saw a sizable mother bear nearby, so went straight to the neighbor's and asked if they could escort us home with their dog," she told AK.
Hunter August Kuuse said his dog had driven off a bear and her cubs deeper into the forest: "Only last night. The dog had been barking for about quarter of an hour. Bears are constantly trying to raid the beehives. You can set your watch by it; at four o'clock in the morning if you go out, and the dogs are barking, it means a bear is around there somewhere."
The Environment Agency says that the number of bears will have risen by the end of this year to nearly a thousand, from 800 last year.
The rise in numbers means they have been getting more and more visible to rural dwellers such as those in Vaida.
In South Estonia, some bears are also crossing the border into Latvia, the board said.
Editor: Andrew Whyte