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WILDLIFE

Nuisance bear destroyed in Graubünden town

A brown bear who came into contact with humans too many times in a Swiss mountain valley was shot dead on Tuesday, officials from the canton of Graubünden said on Wednesday.

Nuisance bear destroyed in Graubünden town
M13 after being tagged last spring. Photo: Canton of Graubünden

The bear, a two-year-old identified as M13, was shot in the Poschiavo area, where it had awoken from its hibernation and come into contact with a 14-year-girl and a pair of Italian tourists.

The girl was taken to hospital and treated for shock after the burly bruin followed her through part of the town near the Italian border.

Wildlife officials determined the bear was a security risk, although the decision was condemned by many environmentalists.

Provisions of Switzerland's bear management plan allow for bears to be destroyed in such cases.

The killing of M13 marks the first time since 2008 that Swiss officials have shot a bear.

In that year, a bear identified as JJ3 was killed after also being judged a nuisance.

M13 had caused problems in the Poschiavo area since the spring of 2012 when it was anesthetized and tagged with a tracking transmitter after preying on a goat.

The bear ended up being injured by a train before being caught dining on sheep in September.

In October, officials were forced to erect an electric fence around a school in Poschiavo after the bear was was discovered eating honey at an aviary outside the building.

Then in November, he broke into a shed next to chalet, where he spent 36 hours.

The bear ate potatoes stored in the hut, as well as stale bread, and destroyed equipment in the building before moving on.

The dramatic encounter with a 14-year-old girl, identified as Emina Piana, on Saturday brought things to a head.

The Poschiavo council demanded action from authorities, who responded.

Culling of bears is a sensitive subject in Switzerland.

Joanna Schoenenberger, bear specialist with environmental group WWF Switzerland, maintained it was not necessary to kill M13.

"There were other solutions than to kill it," she told Le Matin.

"As well, it was not aggressive and posed clearly fewer problems than JJ3, who was killed in 2008 after a lot longer period of observation."

M13 was one of just a handful of bears left in the country, and the only one being tracked in Switzerland.

The animals were hunted to extinction but began to reappear in 2005 after being reintroduced in a Trentino nature park in Italy, not far from the Swiss border.

Since then, a few bears have wandered back and forth across the border.

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ANIMAL

Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope

Workers at the Engelberg Titlis ski area in central Switzerland witnessed a highly unusual spectacle on Monday morning when a brown bear passed close by.

Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope
Bears made a return to Switzerland in 2005 after being absent from the country for over a century. Photo: Nidwalden Police

“The bear was about 100 metres away and stayed in the distance,” Peter Christen, who works on the Gerschnialp ski lift, told regional daily the Nidwalder Zeitung.

“I wasn’t scared: it was more like he was scared of us,” he said.

Read also: Stoat named Switzerland's animal of the year in 2018

Christen and a coworker were collecting poles from the beginners’ ski slope on Gerschnialp when the animal emerged from the forest. “He walked straight over the piste and went back into the woods. We stayed very quiet and watched him,” he told the paper.

“People I know and my colleagues thought I was joking at first when I said I had seen him,” the ski lift worker added.

Authorities believe the bear spotted on Monday is probably an animal known as M29, seen last year in the cantons of Bern and Uri and spotted last week in the area of the Susten Pass that links those two cantons.

M29 is thought to have migrated to Switzerland from Italy in 2016. Photo: Hunting inspectorate of canton Bern

They now believe the bear could now be in the Melch valley in the canton of Obwalden after a forest worker came across his tracks on Tuesday morning.

M29 is thought to have been born in Italy in winter 2013 before migrating to Switzerland in April 2016.

The head of hunting and fisheries for the canton of Nidwalden, Fabian Bieri, said the animal had probably hibernated in the Susten Pass area and was now likely to be on the search for food.

He said M29 was predominantly vegetarian and posed little danger to people or other animals. Bears are only dangerous when they feel cornered or when they are protecting their young, Bieri explained.

“People who are out walking now don’t need to be afraid. Bears hear and smell us long before we see them,” he said. 

But he did advise people not to actively look for bears, saying the animals were best left well alone.

Bears made a return to Switzerland in 2005 after being absent from the country for over a century. M29's appearance in Bern last year was the first time a wild bear had been spotted in the canton in 190 years.