Bear warning issued to hikers in Bernese Oberland

Hikers drawn to the Bernese Oberland this weekend by fine weather are being alerted to the chance of an encounter with a bear.

Bear warning issued to hikers in Bernese Oberland
M29 has recently reappeared in Switzerland. Photo: Canton of Bern hunting inspectorate

It follows numerous sightings of the animal in the region over the Whitsun holiday weekend.

In one, student Marcel Thönen was driving along the right bank of Lake Thun shortly after midnight on Sunday when a bear suddenly appeared ahead of him on the road, forcing him to brake.

“I was shocked; I never expected to come across anything like this,” Thönen said, according to news website 20 Minuten.

The hunting inspectorate of the canton of Bern confirmed that the animal filmed by Thönen was a bear.

Now, with the weekend approaching, it has issued an information sheet telling hikers how to behave if they spot a bear.

While stressing that bears are generally very shy, and the likelihood of meeting one in the wild is low, it warns that animals that have lost their fear may pose a risk.

Hikers taking a walk in an area where bears have been spotted are advised to stick to footpaths, avoid areas with dense fruit bushes, keep dogs on the leash and avoid dropping rubbish or food scraps.

In the unlikely event of an encounter with a bear, it is recommended that walkers alert the animal to their presence by speaking at a normal volume, retreat slowly and avoid behaviour that could be seen as aggressive, such as yelling. 

The bear that was sighted in the Beatenberg area of the Bernese Oberland is thought to be the animal known as M29.

It is likely to be the same bear that just last month took workers at the Engelberg Titlis ski area in central Switzerland by surprise when it passed close by.

Read also: Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope

M29, which is thought to have been born in Italy in winter 2013 before migrating to Switzerland in April 2016, reappeared last year in the cantons of Bern and Uri.

M29's appearance in Bern last year was the first time a wild bear had been spotted in the canton in 190 years

Bears made a return to Switzerland in 2005 after being absent from the country for over a century.