French Farmers Furious About Bears Scaring Prized Sheep to Death

The sheep meat is an expensive delicacy, and farmers are mad that the bears are eating it
Bareges Gavarnie Sheep

Wikimedia/Roland Darre

Bears in the Pyrenees mountains have gotten to be such a problem that farmers say the sheep are running off cliffs to get away from them. 

Some sheep farmers from Luz St. Sauveur, in the Pyrenees mountains, have managed to cultivate a unique enough meat in their Bareges-Gavarnie sheep that they were awarded an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or AOC, which means the Bareges-Gavarnie name and sheep-raising process are protected designations by the government. The sheep themselves are not apparently being protected very well, though, because this week farmers launched a protest because bears in the area have been ruining the sheep populations.

As part of the AOC designation, the Bareges-Gavarnie sheep are allowed to run around the mountain pastures at their leisure. That makes the meat red, well-marbled, and famously flavorful. It also, unfortunately, means that bears can run right up and grab a few. According to The Local, one Luz St. Sauveur farmer said a bear scared his sheep so badly over the weekend that 125 of them ran right off the edge of the mountain and fell into a ravine.

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Dozens of farmers in Luz St. Sauveur gathered on July 5 to demand that the government do something to get rid of the sheep-terrorizing bears, but the bears are actually there on purpose. The brown bear reportedly disappeared from the area in the 1990s, but were reintroduced on purpose, much to the distress of local farmers who had not been sorry to see the bears go.