Switzerland’s Only Wild Bear Killed
By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
(CNN) — M13 was the only bear known to have been living wild in Switzerland, according to the Swiss national broadcaster.
Despite that status, the young male was shot Tuesday morning in Poschiavo Valley, in the Alps near the Italian border, by authorities who feared he was a threat to people.
The brown bear had become dangerous to humans because he regularly sought out food in inhabited areas — including a school — and had started following people during the day, the Swiss Federal Environment Office said.
The creature also showed little fear of humans despite several attempts to get it away from villages, it said.
Concern about the bear’s behavior was such that a radio collar was fitted so he could be closely monitored. And in November of last year, he was classified as a “problem bear.”
When M13 emerged from his winter hibernation recently, that pattern of behavior was repeated, pushing authorities to act, the environment office said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
“The bear M13 had certainly never showed any aggression toward man, but the risk that an accident might happen and that people might be badly injured or killed had become intolerable,” it said.
Nonetheless, news of his death prompted grief and outrage on a Facebook page set up by supporters of M13. Some questioned why he wasn’t relocated or placed in a zoo rather than being shot by wildlife officers.
The risk remains that other bears might follow in M13’s paw prints and stray into Switzerland’s Grisons area.
According to the Swiss Federal Environment Office, M13 was one of about 40 individuals originating in the Trentin area of Italy.
Swiss authorities face the dilemma of whether to try to protect the bear population as a whole or a few individuals, the environment office said.
“In order to give the bear population a chance to reestablish itself in Switzerland, circumstances sometimes arise when unfortunately an individual must be killed,” it said.