Law on Emergency Culling of Bears, Wolves Repealed after Targets Reached

The Constitutional Court has repealed an emergency law ordering the culling of brown bear and wolf populations which was to remain valid until late September. Even though the cull determined by the law has already been carried out, the decision may prevent the adoption of emerging amendments that would increase the cull quota for this year.

The court has ruled that the law is in violation of Article 3 of the Constitution, which refers to the separation of powers between the three branches of government. Based on that, it did not rule on the substance of the law, said Alpe Adria Green, an environmental NGO.

The law gave permission to hunters to cull 175 bears and 11 wolves. Most of the animals have already been culled, but the NGO says the ruling would probably put a stop to an amendment to the act currently under discussion which would enforce additional culling.

A constitutional review of the bill was sought by the Legal-Informational Centre for NGOs and the Association for the Preservation of Slovenian Natural Heritage in July. The court agreed at the time that any culling should be regulated by the nature conservation act and the decree on protected wild animal species, while the culling should be ordered by the government.

After the Administrative Court annulled a number of such government decrees, parliament passed a law directly mandating the cull, a move that the Constitutional Court sees as violation of the principle of the separation of powers.

Since the legislation was to expire at the end of September, efforts to amend the act have begun. The changes, which were proposed by the National Council in February and enjoy support from the government, would expand the annual cull: 220 bears were to be killed between 1 May and 30 April 2021 and 30 wolves from May to late January 2021.

More than 30 environmental NGOs have protested against the proposal, addressing a letter to the EU Commission representation office and European Parliament office in Slovenia and urging the authorities to immediately impose a moratorium on carnivore culling in the country.

Slovenia has a thriving brown bear population that was estimated at 750-975 animals at the end of 2018 under a study conducted in the framework of the international project LIFE. Culling is a widely accepted management practice supported by researchers, but in recent years the public pressure to control the population has increased due to a growing number of human-bear conflicts.

The wolf population, meanwhile, is estimated at around 80 animals, according to a study commissioned by the Agriculture Ministry. Damage by wolves, in particular to livestock, has been increasing in recent years, but experts say culling must be very precise in order not to disturb the hierarchy of wolf packs, which may actually cause greater damage if packs are unstable.

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