British tourist saved by Marks & Spencer jacket in bear attack

Moira Gallacher is taken to hospital for treatment
Moira Gallacher is taken to hospital for treatment - TVR/STV/UNPIXS

A British holidaymaker who was mauled by a brown bear in Romania claims her thick Marks & Spencer coat saved her life.

Moira Gallacher and her friend Charmian Widdowson were driving through the Carpathian Mountains when they spotted a mother bear and its cub on the roadside.

The 72-year-old from West Lothian was eager to get a picture but when she wound down the window, the bear clamped its jaws on her arm and tried to get inside the car.

Her travelling companion quickly drove away and Ms Gallacher was taken to hospital after the attack, which took place on the Transfagarasan mountain road in Arges county.

The bears run up to the tourists' car in search of a snack
The bears run up to the tourists' car in search of a snack - Jam Press

“The mummy bear was hungry, and thought my friend was going to be lunch,” Ms Widdowson said. “She was wearing a thick Marks & Spencer jacket and the poor bear got more jacket than arm.”

Ms Gallacher admitted her arm was sore but said: “I’ve been very, very lucky. The shock has set in today but everything’s OK now.”

Ms Gallacher arrived in Bucharest on Sunday with Ms Widdowson, who had previously lived and worked in Romania.

There has been increasing concern in Romania about the number of brown bears and calls for a cull after the rise in attacks in recent years, many of them fatal.

Bears are common across large parts of Eastern Europe in the areas surrounding the Carpathian mountains, which stretch from Romania to Poland and pass through Slovakia.

Last year it was estimated there were up to 8,000 brown bears in Romania, many more than any other European country apart from Russia.

According to the Romanian environment ministry, there were 154 bear attacks on humans between 2016 and 2021, resulting in 14 deaths.

The animals can travel long distances in search of nourishment and attacks have been on the rise as they emerge from forests to eat food often left behind by tourists.

Bears have also caused problems in Slovenia and Italy in recent years.

In Italy, they have been spotted closer to towns and villages looking for food. But the coexistence of bears and humans has become increasingly controversial after a bear killed a trail runner in the Dolomites in 2023.

Andrea Papi, 26, is understood to have surprised the bear, which had two cubs, when he was running along a forest path.

The bears in the Alps and Dolomites are Eurasian brown bears, reintroduced from Slovenia, and different from the Marsican bears that live in the Apennines of central Italy.