France, Spain hold 'bear summit' after attacks on sheep

France's wildlife agency ONCFS shows a image of a bear introduced into the Pyrenees to help stem dwindling numbers -- but Spanish shepherds are on the warpath after nine sheep were mauled to death (AFP Photo/-)

Madrid (AFP) - Spain and France held talks Friday on how to respond after a brown bear recently introduced in the French Pyrenees killed several sheep, alarming shepherds cross the border.

Claverina, one of two Slovenian bears which France released into the wild last October to revive a falling population, is believed to have killed eight sheep in Spain's Navarra region and another in the adjacent northern Basque region.

Claverina and fellow female Sorita, aged five, have their movements tracked through the electronic collars and the pair clearly love to roam.

Claverina is known to have spent the winter hibernating even further south in the mountains of the Aragon region.

In what Spanish media have dubbed "the bear summit," officials from both countries met for "technical" discussions in Madrid, the country's ministry for ecological transition said.

The officials, with the help of counterparts from the regional governments of the areas affected, have agreed to "speed up the exchange of information on following up the bears" and their activities.

Currently, data from the bears' collars is only forwarded to the Spanish side some hours after it reaches their French counterparts, a ministry spokesman said.

Both countries also want to step up cooperation bewteen their national parks and forests.

A ministry statement said Madrid and Paris hope to "consolidate the presence" of the brown bear in the Pyrenees after hunting saw the known population in the east of the region decline to just two males. Claverina and Sorita were released as part of those efforts.

According to the French National Hunting and Wildlife Agency (ONCFS), the overall bear population fell at one stage to 40 for the whole Pyrenees region.

Spanish data show around 300 brown bears nationwide, the majority across the Cantabrian Mountains in the far north of the country.