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Bruin the bear goes for the bare necessities

Switzerland's only free bear has been welcomed... up to now

(Keystone)

Only days after entering the country, the first brown bear in Switzerland in more than a century has attacked and killed a calf.

The owner of the calf, farmer Fadri Conrad, is taking the incident in his stride.

The attack took place near the Ofen Pass in the southeastern Swiss canton of Graubünden.

The killing was confirmed by gamekeeper Jon Gross who on Saturday morning inspected the mutilated body of the seven-day-old calf on an alp above Tschierv in the Müstair valley.

Gross said the calf was found lying on its back with its right thigh bitten, adding that the marks left on the body immediately indicated a bear attack.

Local vet Toni Theus told the Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick: "We have no doubt – that was the work of the bear."

Philosophical

The owner of the calf, farmer Fadri Conrad, was philosophical about the attack.

"That is Mother Nature. We had to take into account that something like this could happen."

"But I thought it would rather attack a sheep," he added.

The attack on the calf took place just a few hundred metres away from where the bear had been spotted earlier by several tourists.

The young calf was not among the herd because mothers usually keep their calves at a distance for the first few days.

Higher ground

"Now we have to protect our cows," said farmer Conrad, who with other farmers led the cows up to higher ground above the tree line.

But his enthusiasm that a bear is close by has not been dampened.

"It is nice that we have a bear again. Now we just have to learn how to live with it," he said.

Not all farmers in the neighbourhood are as relaxed. "I know there are people who are not happy at all that there is a new animal in the woods," vet Theus commented.

"It is really important that this incident doesn’t have negative consequences for the image of the bear."

Splendid nature

"In the end, we can only profit from the bear, and it also shows how splendid our nature is if it can find its way to us," Theus said.

In the next few days, he will see local farmers to ask for understanding for the bear.

Fears that the bear could attack humans are unfounded, according to gamekeeper Gross.

"But it is important that it is not fed and that hikers don’t leave anything edible behind," he said.

The bear in the Swiss National Park is becoming something of an attraction, provoking an outbreak of bear mania in much of the media... and all that for a bear that has no idea it has crossed into Swiss territory.

The SonntagsBlick has wasted no time in inviting its readers to give the bear a name. A jury will pick out the ten best entries, before a final vote in the middle of August.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The bear has probably crossed into the Swiss National Park in southeastern Switzerland from the Trentino region of Italy, about 50 kilometres from the Swiss border.
About a dozen brown bears live in the region.
There are around 50,000 brown bears in Europe, among them 25 in neighbouring Austria.

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In brief

Environment Minister Moritz Leuenberger, currently on holiday in canton Graubünden, is happy that the brown bear is back in Switzerland, saying it was "positive for biodiversity".

Environment organisations WWF and Pro Natura are also glad about the bear's return. Joanna Schönenberger from the WWF said the presence of large predators in the Alps was "beneficial for man". Deer and wild boar were too numerous and caused much damage, by eating for example small trees that would have grown and reduced the risk of avalanches.

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