A three-day event in Kalabaka for the human-bear coexistence in Greece and Italy

March 26, 2024

A productive three days of meetings and visits took place over the past few days in the town of Kalabaka in Thessaly.

LBSC Staff in Greece.
Annette Mertens

In the framework of the LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors initiative, the partners from Callisto, the Development Agency of Trikala (KENAKAP), Arcturus, the University of Thessaly, as well as from the Italian Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park and the organizations Salviamo l’Orso, Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Apennines gathered in Kalabaka.

During the first day on March 12th a technical meeting of the partners in the framework of LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors was held. On the following day the presentation of the LIFE Arcprom project took place, as well as the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the creation of the “Bear-Smart Community” that will promote the harmonious coexistence between human activities and the brown bear in the wider Regional Unit of Trikala. The Memorandum was signed between the Municipality of Trikala, the Municipality of Meteora and the LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors Project Team operating in the Trikala-Meteora area.

Signature of Memorandum of Understanding.
Annette Mertens


Intelligent coexistence between human and brown bear

A Bear-Smart Community can involve representatives of the local community and other stakeholders, such as livestock, beekeeping cooperatives, hunting, cultural associations, Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE), travel agents, development companies, businesses, JVs, and others.

The Community will support actions such as:

  • Prevention of damage by bears through the supply and installation of electric fencing, special structures that are not tampered with by the bear (chicken coops) etc.
  • “Smart” waste management by removing food scraps that attract brown bears and installing non-tampered garbage bins, as well as educating the local community.
  • Awareness of poaching incidents, poisoned bait incidents and other illegal practices.
  • Avoiding disturbance to the brown bear from anthropogenic activities.
  • Actions to improve brown bear habitat.
  • Training of volunteers to act as “Ambassadors” and assist in the activities of LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors, as well as in the communication activities of the community.
  • Exploring local income enhancement through added-value from the presence of brown bears in the area, such as alternative forms of tourism, certification of brown bear-friendly products and services, and other business initiatives that contribute to local sustainable development and wildlife conservation.
Electric fence.


Visit to the brown bear passages

In the framework of the three-day work, a visit and tour of the wider Meteora region took place with the partners of the LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors initiative from Italy.

We were at the brown bear passages sites, where we saw how the genetic recording of each bear is then carried out from the fur they leave behind. We then visited the village of Agiophyllo, where one of the village’s chicken coops has been protected with electric fence from potential damages caused by wild animals such as bears.

Collection of bear’s hair for genetic analysis.


Meet the Karelia Dog Unit for the repulsion of bears

At the same time, in cooperation with the LIFE Arcprom project, we met Athena and Adele, the two Karelian Bear Dogs (KBD), as well as their handlers from the Karelia dog unit created by OFYPEKA.

Karelian dogs are a breed that has been developed and used by hunters and farmers for centuries (mainly in Scandinavia and Russia). Its quick reflexes and fearless nature have made it very popular for pursuing aggressive prey such as the bear.

This is the first time in our country that an innovative, well tested (both in Europe and USA) and effective method to minimize the incidents of bear-human interaction is introduced, used and demonstrated. After proper training, the dogs are directed by their handler towards “problem” bears exhibiting “familiarization” behavior at a designated point to chase and repel the bear.

It was a fruitful exchanging experience, which strengthened the operational teams and made a turning point for the continuation of LIFE Bear-Smart Corridors both in Italy and Greece.

Demonstration with Karelian Dog Unit
Annette Mertens