BUCHAREST Police and hunters were tracking a brown bear which attacked and killed a man in the south of Romania on Wednesday, just days after a bear infected with rabies was shot dead after it killed a man and injured two others in the same area.
Romania boasts roughly half of Europe's brown bears living in its largely unspoilt Carpathian mountains, with an estimated 4,000-7,000 animals, according to environmentalists.
The bear which killed the 64-year-old man on Wednesday in Dambovita county, northwest of Bucharest, had escaped from a poacher's trap before it attacked. It then disappeared into a forested area nearby.
"The bear was tangled in a trap and hurt. We do not know if the man who was attacked was just passing by or whether he had laid the trap himself," Dragos Rusu, prefect of Dambovita county, told local television station Realitatea TV.
The area around the scene of Saturday's bear attack, which killed a 71-year-old man in his orchard, has been placed under quarantine after preliminary autopsy results showed the animal had rabies. Two other people were also injured.
Romania's mountains have been home to brown bears for centuries, and their numbers surged in the 1970s and 80s when former communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu banned hunting for all but himself and his lavish hunting parties.
Now the law limits bear-hunting to a little under 350 animals a year, which officials said is needed to maintain their population, but poaching may lift the figure higher.
Bears are often seen foraging through trash cans in Romanian mountain towns, and there have been cases of bears breaking into apartment buildings, backyards or pubs.
Several people, including foreign tourists, have been killed or injured by hungry or scared bears and environmentalists have warned the animals' natural habitat is being destroyed by construction and food resources are becoming scarce.
"The fact that we have had so few cases of bear-man accidents is due more to bears than humans," said Magor Csibi, Romanian country manager at environmental group WWF.
"Given that Romania has Europe's largest bear population which it is managing negligently, the risk of serious accidents is high." (Reporting by Luiza Ilie and Ioana Patran; Editing by Sophie Hares)