By Ian Bred, Norfolk Correspondent
The controversial rewilding project in Thetford Forest has been scrapped after a Norfolk family of four were eaten by bears.
Wildlife campaigners were overjoyed when black bears and wolves were released into the forest on the Suffolk and Norfolk border.
But just six months later, a Freedom of Information request by this newspaper has revealed a family of four from Norwich were devoured by a mother bear and her three cubs last February.
The tragic news follows the mauling of 12 domestic dogs in Thetford Forest during various walkies.
Our inquiries to the Department of Forestation revealed the family – a man, his sister and their two children aged under ten, had been picnicking at a spot near Lynford, just north of Thetford, when they were attacked.
But news of the deaths was controversially kept a secret to stop panic spreading among visitors and local residents.
Spokeswoman Lorraine Fisher, 34, confirmed: “Maybe we should have said something. The family must have disturbed the mum and her bear cubs. The family were reported missing and a search party sent out.
“All that was found was a pair of walking boots, a Norwich City scarf and a half-drunk flask of coffee.”
Further re-introductions of wildlife including bears, wolves, wildcats and mammoths have now been put on hold.
“We are rethinking our strategy,” confirmed Ms Fisher. “We don’t intend to capture those animals already released, but we probably won’t release any more.”
The family of black bears have been seen several times in the forest, including by Suffolk Gazette reader Steve Walshe, who took the photograph featured on the top of this page of the family crossing the A134.
Thetford Forest had been one of two areas chosen to re-settle animals that had left this island many centuries ago. Bristol was the other.
It proved controversial when a bear was spotted near the Norfolk Broads having roamed more than 50 miles from the release site.