A brown bear has been spending time in the national park in eastern Switzerland – noteworthy because there are no wild bears living in the country.
On Sunday, a fisherman discovered fresh tracks in the snow in Zernez, in the Engadine region. Speaking on Monday to Swiss public radio, RTR, a local gamekeeper confirmed that it was a brown bear.
Also on Monday, the Swiss National Park posted a photo of a footprint as well as a camera trap image from last week. The Facebook post noted that it was probably a young male bear from the Trentino region in northern Italy.
However, it was not possible to gather any genetic material to identify the animal. Much of the snow melted on Sunday, only to be covered by fresh snow on Monday.
The last bear that migrated from Italy to Switzerland’s canton Graubünden was M32. He, too, was first observed near Zernez. But a week later, in April 2016, he was hit by a Rhaetian Railway train and died at the scene.
Bears and Switzerland
From the Middle Ages to the 18th century, there were bears all over Switzerland. But the last wild one was shot down in Graubünden in 1904.
Today there are about 50 bears living in the Italian, Austrian and Slovenian Alps, where the conditions are generally good for them. Since 2005, several brown bears have wandered from Italy to Graubünden, but none has remained – except for M13, who roamed between Italy, Austria and Switzerland.
In 2012, M13 spent a lot of time in Val Poschiavo. Eventually, authorities decided that he was a “problem bear” for his habit of prowling around human settlements in search of food, despite efforts to scare him off. In February 2013, the authorities had him hunted down and killed.