France suspended hunting in the western Pyrenees on Wednesday to save a bear cub orphaned when his mother, the last female bear native to the region, was killed by hunters earlier this week.
BORDEAUX, France France suspended hunting in the western Pyrenees on Wednesday to save a bear cub orphaned when his mother, the last female bear native to the region, was killed by hunters earlier this week.
Hunting and dog walking would be banned temporarily in the districts where the cub is believed to be roaming, said Philippe Gregoire, the government's representative in the Pyrenees Atlantiques region in southwest France.
Environment Minister Serge Lepeltier was to travel to the region on Thursday to find out the circumstances under which the mother, known as Cannelle (Cinnamon), was shot on Monday.
President Jacques Chirac told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday that "the loss of a species is always a serious loss for biodiversity" in France and in Europe, government spokesman Jean-Francois Cope said.
Lepeltier called the incident "an ecological catastrophe."
Animal rights activists said hunters were warned in advance the female bear was nearby.
A group of six who were hunting wild boar said the bear attacked their dogs. One of the hunters, fearing that he was in danger, shot her, and the badly injured bear fell into a ravine.
Her corpse was taken to a veterinary school in Toulouse for autopsy, and police were due to run ballistics tests. The results will determine any legal action against the hunters.
The Association for the Protection of Wild Animals (ASPAS) has said it plans to file complaints against the hunter who fired the shots and the president of the hunting group for destroying a protected species.
If found guilty, they would face a maximum sentence of six months in prison and a 9,000-euro (US$11,500) fine.
"Cannelle was shot by hunters who never should have come into her area. Her son is doomed," the group said in a statement.