In a Transylvania Town, Bears and Humans Collide at the Dumpster

BAILE TUSNAD, Romania — One evening after work in Baile Tusnad, a run-down spa city in jap Transylvania, a younger couple sat in a dark-blue sedan, headlights on, gazes mounted on dumpsters on a cobblestone again avenue.

They had been ready for bears.

There is proscribed leisure on this mountainous area of central Romania after the bars and eating places shut by 11 p.m. So the liveliest spots on the town are close to the dumpsters, the place big brown bears forage for meals.

“This is the local attraction,” stated Hunor Stekbauer, 26, a slender man with glasses and shirt sleeves rolled as much as reveal a classic calculator watch. He was sitting in the automotive one night, one hand holding a cigarette out the window, eyes mounted on the trash bins.

His girlfriend and co-worker at an vitality provider, Henrietta Gergely, 20, was in the passenger seat. She stated many native residents and others from cities close by hung round at evening hoping to identify a brown bear.

But if one had been to point out up, she admitted, “I’m not getting out of the car.”

Others feed, and chase the bears. Sometimes the people get harm, however they nonetheless collect to identify the animals.

Baile Tusnad, as soon as identified for its therapeutic waters, has earned a measure of fame for bear recognizing in Europe due to a confluence of looking practices and a former dictator’s legacy that allowed the bear inhabitants to flourish.

The city, with a human inhabitants about 1,600, was affluent in the 19th century, when the space was on the jap fringe of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But it has lengthy since misplaced its imperial luster.

With its patchwork of carved picket villas, crumbling Communist-era concrete buildings and latest glass-and-steel additions, it stands in stark distinction to the fantastic thing about the valley, the place dense forests meet the Olt River, offering sanctuary for brown bears.

Nicolae Ceausescu, the nation’s former dictator and an avid bear hunter, made positive there have been loads of bears round to supply him award-winning trophies that are actually mounted in an everlasting snarl on museum partitions. He left a bear inhabitants that has grown to greater than 6,000.

But the animals’ habitat has shrunk and their meals sources have diminished as improvement encroached. Deforestation and large-scale foraging for mushrooms and forest fruit additionally restricted their house and meals. As the bears started rising from the forests into cities and villages, they destroyed gardens, broken livestock and threatened folks.

Mr. Papp acknowledged that the number of reported attacks had grown but said that, in most cases, people were provoking the bears. He said the animals that approached people were usually young, “a little dumb and fearless.”

Outside, Mr. Szin put out the bears’ daily allotment of food in accordance with hunting rules: kernels of corn. Minutes later, bears began to appear. Mr. Szin had given them names like Panda, Bea and Zephyr. They walked, jumped and rolled round. The tourists sat in awe.

Just before night fell, with six bears still in the clearing, Mr. Szin and his group sneaked out the back of the hut and walked through the forest to his S.U.V.

Away from the tourist trail, the bears are a source of frustration. A couple of hours’ drive west of Baile Tusnad, shepherds herd large flocks of sheep in verdant hills near the village of Soimusu Mic. Here, the loss of livestock to bears does considerable damage to the families who own them. And a cry for help during an attack often draws nothing but echoes.

On one hill, Sandor Tamasi, 27, stood near his flock as he recalled a summer night when he was herding sheep. Suddenly, he said, the animals stopped, “petrified.” Moments later, he found himself pulling his assistant — who had gotten too close to some bushes — from the jaws of a bear.

“Many have told us to just bring home the sheep,” Mr. Tamasi said. “Should we get ourselves killed?”

Back in Baile Tusnad, it was near midnight. Mr. Stekbauer and Ms. Gergely had moved on from the dumpster, still hoping to spot a bear. Mr. Kovacs was at the hunter’s inn he runs near the town center when — lo — he and a visitor saw a large bear casually walking down a cobbled street.

Mr. Kovacs and others greeted it with excitement. “I’d never want to shoot them,” he said, as he visibly softened at the sight of the animal. “I love them.”

Farther down the road, the young couple, guided by the sound of howling dogs, spotted the bear, too. It was the highlight of their night. Bear sighted, they gave a friendly wave and drove off.

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