Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Romanian policeman dies after bear attack

BUCHAREST, Jan 19 (Reuters) - A Romanian policeman has died after being attacked by a brown bear on Sunday when he took a stroll outside a mountaintop village in central Romania, a local official said.

The 30-year-old died in hospital from his injuries.

"The village is isolated on the top of a mountain," said Andrea Buzsi, spokeswoman for Covasna county police. "There is a forest with many bears there."

Romania boasts half of Europe's brown bears living in its largely unspoilt Carpathian mountains. But environmentalists warn the animals' natural habitat is being destroyed by rampant construction.

Bears are often sighted foraging through trash cans in mountain towns in central Romania, and there have been cases of bears napping in apartment buildings or breaking into the grounds of pubs and hospitals.

Several people, including foreign tourists, have been mauled to death in recent years by hungry or irritated bears.

The most recent death was in August last year when the torn body of a local man was found 500 metres from the centre of the town of Brasov. (Reporting by Luiza Ilie; Editing by Giles ELgood)

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