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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The government says Romania should reduce the number of brown bears by 2,000 in the next decade to protect the existing bear population.

The environment ministry said Thursday that Romania had between 6,050 to 6,640 brown bears in 2016. It said 4,000 bears was an optimum figure from an “ecological, social and economic point of view.”

It said the bears were encroaching on areas where people lived.

The ministry suggested hunting as one of the ways of getting rid of the bears, prompting criticism from animal rights groups. WWF Romania claimed the proposal contravened European Union rules regarding “strictly protected species.”

Another group, Agent Green, said the government proposal would lead to “an open hunting season … that ignores the real causes of the problem,” which is a loss of habitat.