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Park bears the cost of bear hysteria

The bear has become quite a star in Switzerland

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s one and only bear is causing quite a stir, so much so that the authorities are threatening to fire rubber pellets if it gets too close to the public.

Officials in canton Graubünden are hoping to avoid any trouble between the hordes of tourists coming to the Swiss Alps to see the bear and the area’s new furry visitor.

The bear, the first to be seen in Switzerland for more than 100 years, was first spotted in the Swiss National Park in the east of the country last week.

Since then tourists and the media have been rushing to the park to try and get a glimpse of the bear, with many getting up close for the all-important photograph.

The Graubünden authorities said on Thursday that after consultations with international bear experts, they had decided to use rubber pellets to scare the bear if it gets too close to its fans.

"It’s an interesting bear because it is not afraid of humans and this will probably only get worse because of the number of people who have come to see it," said park ranger Peter Roth.

"And this was possible because it remained in the same place close to the road for a couple of days - that’s very untypical for a wild bear. It won’t be easy for it to live here," he told swissinfo.

Vanishing act

Officials were worried for a while that the bear had already come to the same conclusion as it seemed to disappear for a few days.

However, it was announced on Friday that the bear had been seen again. But the authorities said they were saying where it had been sighted to give the bear some peace and quiet.

They had earlier speculated that the bear might have left the park because of too much public attention. However, Reinhard Schnidrig, head of the hunting and game division at the Swiss environment agency, had another explanation.

He told the Basler Zeitung on Thursday that the bear had probably gone towards the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino to take advantage of the chestnut harvest.

The zoologist added that the bear might not be able to find enough food in the Swiss National Park and the fact that the animal killed a calf a few days ago shows that it is hungry.

"It might not be such a bad thing if he were to find a more quiet place," said Schnidrig.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The brown bear normally shies away from humans. It is known to be intelligent, crafty, lazy and opportunist. Bears look for the easiest ways of getting food.

People are advised not to feed bears because this tames the animal and it becomes aggressive if it is refused food.

Bears are wild animals and weigh up to 300 kilograms. This protected species is capable of speeds of up to 60kmh and can climb trees.

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