<APRIL FOOL>02/04/2015: Just in case anyone out there is taking this seriously, check the publication date — to our knowledge there are no bears currently being released in Ireland</APRILFOOL>
A group of extreme conservationists is secretly releasing brown bears into Killarney National Park in Co. Kerry an anonymous source revealed this week.
On the back of successful reintroduction programmes and natural recolonisation by apex predators like wolves and bears in North America and mainland Europe, and frustrated with inaction and procrastination from the Irish authorities, a group calling itself “The Bear Face of Conservation” (BFC) decided to take matters into its own hands.
“We looked at other countries, at the balance that apex predators have brought back to local ecosystems, and thought ‘Ireland deserves some of that’,” claimed a spokesman for the group at a secret meeting in Killarney yesterday. “Obviously bears can’t make it back to Ireland under their own steam, so we decided to give them a helping hand.”
At first the BFC was considering wolves, but widespread discussion over wolf reintroduction in Ireland cast doubts over the scheme’s viability. After some consideration the group settled on bears as a more manageable alternative.
“Bears are big, potentially dangerous predators, yes — but they are solitary, move more slowly than wolves and are much easier to keep tabs on,” said the group. “They also sleep for almost half the year — so in theory only present half the challenge of more active large predators. We don’t anticipate any major problems as long as people leave the bears alone.”
The group, which is secretly funded by an anonymous Russian oligarch with connections in Siberia, where donor bears are sourced, smuggled its first adolescent bear into a secluded cove on the Iveragh Peninsula in Kerry last month. The aim is to release two bears a month at remote locations in Irish National Parks, beginning in Killarney, Co. Kerry, and working up to Glenveigh in Co. Donegal.
“We know it’s illegal to release animals into the wild in Ireland, but we couldn’t get the authorities to engage with our proposals, and we refuse to stand idly by and watch Ireland’s Biodiversity going down the tubes,” said a spokesperson for the group. “Yes, we could have focussed on butterflies, bees or beetles, but let’s face it, bears are much sexier, and we firmly believe an apex land predator is the solution Ireland’s biodiversity is crying out for. In the face of government inaction, we had no choice but to act.”
According to the group, which monitors released bears closely using radio tracking collars and satellite tags, the bears don’t pose much danger to people, as long as they are left alone.
“As long as you don’t surprise a bear, keep your distance and leave well alone you should be fine. Inevitably there will be the occasional casualty. Bears are big, powerful predators after all. At the end of the day though the loss of a rambler or two isn’t the end of the world, and should be viewed against the bigger picture of the health of our broader ecosystem, which benefits everybody.”
The group offers the following advice to hikers and ramblers who find themselves face to face with a wild bear in Ireland:
- Take a leaf out of BBC Cameraman Gordon Buchanan’s book and wander around saying “Hey Bear!” a lot to let the bears know you are around. If bears know you are coming they will generally move away before you ever see them.
- Don’t run if the bear can see you! If you do you’ll get eaten. Instead stick your hands in the air to make yourself look bigger, then back away slowly while talking to the bear (“Hey Bear!”) until you round a curve in the trail or are concealed by someundergrowth. Once out of sight of the bear feel free to turn around and run like hell!
- Wear bells. They won’t help much but bears find the jingle entertaining while playing with their food
- Another trick from the Gordon Buchanan playbook if available, is to try locking yourself into a tiny reinforced polycarbonate box until the bear loses interest in you and goes away
The National Parks and Wildlife Service was unavailable to comment on the story, but issued a statement today to say it takes the report very seriously, and has added it to its priority case-load. Based on current workload and schedules it is estimated that NPWS rangers on the ground will be in a position to start looking at the bear allegations sometime in early 2018.