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Brown bear back in Switzerland

The bear was photographed on Thursday morning in the southeast of the country

(Keystone)

The brown bear has returned to the Swiss Alps more than a century after its disappearance.

Officials said on Thursday that a bear had been spotted in a national park in the east of the country.

Two park rangers saw the animal early on Thursday morning in the Müstair valley in Graubünden, according to National Parks spokesman Hans Lozza.

The sighting was near the border with Italy, where there is already an established bear population. It follows reports earlier in the week that a bear had been seen in the area.

Park officials have been expecting the return of the brown bear for months.

Earlier this year Swiss authorities began to set aside land in the southeast of the country, hoping that it might act as a corridor for the bears to move up from northern Italy.

Extinction

Bears, along with wolves and lynxes, were hunted to extinction in the Alps in the 19th century. The last bear in Switzerland was killed in 1904.

The Geneva-based conservation group, WWF, believes bears should be able to establish a new home in Switzerland. But how well they acclimatise to their surroundings depends on whether they are accepted by the population.

While conservationists have welcomed the animal’s return, there are fears that farmers might not be so keen.

The reintroduction of the lynx in the Bernese Oberland is not proving popular among farmers.

And the government has relaxed laws making it easier for farmers to kill the few wolves which have strayed over the border in the past few years if found preying on sheep.

However, Switzerland has a long association with bears: its capital, Bern, is said to be named after one.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

If you come into close contact with a brown bear:

Act immediately to scare it away by waving your arms and making noise.

The intent is not to harm the bear, but to scare it away and restore its natural fear of people.

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