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M29 returns? Swiss bear on the piste

Bear walking in snow near to two people

The bear thought to be M29 is moving around in the vicinity of people


What do you do when you encounter a bear on the piste: ski away, play dead, shout and scream or adopt the snow plough position? Such theories were nearly put to the test when a bear wandered into a Swiss ski resort on Monday.

The brown bear was filmed walking alongside the piste in front of bemused onlookers in Gerschnialpexternal link near Engelberg in canton Obwalden. This animal is thought to be M29, the name given to a bear spotted in cantons Bern and Uri last year.

It eventually wandered away without coming into contact with anyone.

+ Could it be the same bear spotted last year?

Today there are about 50 bears living in the Italian, Austrian and Slovenian Alps, but few roam into Swiss territory. In 2013, a brown bear known as M13, which showed no fear of humans, was shot dead after following hikers, wandering into residential areas and breaking into a holiday home to find food.

Bears were once relatively widespread in Switzerland, but the last resident Swiss bear was shot in Graubünden in 1904.

Switzerland brought a “bear plan” into force in July 2006 to promote coexistence between humans and bears. It provides that bears can be killed if they are classified as posing a risk to humans, notably by frequenting human settlements and ignoring attempts to deter them.

Canton Valais is set to vote on a so-called “predator-free zone”, which would force the authorities to adopt stronger measures to protect people and livestock from wolves, lynx and bears.

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