A red deer that got caught in barbed wire security fencing along the Slovenian-Croatian border. These animals frequently cross national borders in search of food and as they migrate with the seasons. Photo: Dejan Kaps

By Jim O'Donnell
15 December 2016

(Yale e360) – The Dinaric Mountains of southeastern Europe are home to three of the continent’s largest carnivores – the Eurasian brown bear, the Eurasian wolf, and the Eurasian lynx. They roam widely through woodlands of ash, oak, beech, and pine that run the length of the range from Greece to the Alps. The jagged cliffs and sheer-sided canyons, cut by some of the last free-flowing rivers on the continent, offer near-ideal habitat for these animals.

This Balkan region, already threatened by the construction of highways and dams, is now being carved into increasingly constricted and less hospitable chunks by a new threat: border fencing. In the summer of 2015, as a flood of refugees from the Middle East and Africa streamed into Europe, Hungary closed its border. That left Slovenia as the main refugee conduit into Western Europe. Alarmed at the massive tide of migrants, Slovenia began building a razor-wire security fence along its 670-kilometer (416-mile) border with Croatia, giving little if any consideration of the environmental impacts on the wildlife.

Those effects are now being felt by the region’s migratory wild animals. The Croatian-Slovenian border area is currently home to scores of bears that, according to DNA testing and satellite tracking, have long roamed freely between the two countries and beyond. Of the 10 or 11 wolf packs found in Slovenia, five traditionally have regularly moved across the Slovenian-Croatian boundary where the fence is now being erected. The threatened lynx also counts as homeland this area that was for centuries a borderless frontier of valleys, hills, and farmland.

On his most recent trip into the mountains along the Slovenian-Croatian border, biologist Djuro Huber counted 11 dead roe deer, all caught up in the fencing. The deer stumble into the barriers while foraging. In a desperate bid to escape, they drive themselves further into the razor wire, entangling themselves and eventually dying of blood loss. “Certainly many more died, but the border officials try to remove them before [they are] photographed,” says Huber of the University of Zagreb in Croatia. “But it is what we don’t see that troubles me the most.” […]

“The big problem,” concluded the University of Zagreb’s Huber, “is that from Mongolia to the United States to Europe, building fences and walls — that’s a trend.” [more]

Aimed at Refugees, Fences Are Threatening European Wildlife

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