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Bern scene of bear attack

A mentally handicapped man has been injured by a bear in Bern's newly opened Bear Park.

According to eyewitnesses, the 25-year-old man climbed over the railing on Saturday afternoon and fell four metres into the enclosure where he was attacked by one of the bruins.

The police shot and wounded the bear, Finn, in order to free the man, who was hospitalised with head and leg injuries, but is not said to be in a life-threatening condition.

"We were shocked by the [bear] attack and by the fact that someone was able to get into the enclosure," said zoo director, Bern Schildger.

The bear's injuries have been described as critical, after it was hit in the chest. On Monday, the authorities reported a slight improvement in his condition.

It was the sixth incident of its kind since Bern opened the bear pit 150 years ago. The last time was in 1998 when a drunken man fell into the pit. The bearkeeper was able to distract the animal and the man escaped unharmed.

Four people who had a close encounter with Bern's bears prior to that did not live to talk about it. Alcohol was also in play in a couple of earlier cases, perhaps giving the men involved a false sense of courage.

In a more unusual case in 1926, a cyclist riding downhill towards the pit experienced brake failure, was jettisoned into the bears' home knocking a child into it as well. The child died of its injuries in hospital.

The new Bear Park, which cost SFr24 million ($23.6 million), was opened one month ago and houses Finn and companion Björk. It stretches from the traditional bear pit down to the River Aare, giving the animals much more space and a more natural environment to roam in. and agencies


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