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Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope

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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
13:42 CEST+02:00
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.

“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.

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