First bear in Germany in 16 years

In 2006, bear JJ1 kept Germans in suspense for weeks. JJ1, or Bruno, as the media called him, was the first wild bear in Germany in 170 years. He ventured into the Bavarian Alps from Trentino, Italy, where bears have been reintroduced in 1996. After he killed livestock, the Bavarian government declared him a ‘problem bear’. After several failed attempts of capturing Bruno, it ordered his death. The hunt for Bruno took over a month and cost over € 125 000. The Bavarian ministry even hired bear hunting experts from Finland. He was eventually shot by a local hunter, which created a massive outcry.

First bear in Germany in 16 years

In October 2019, more than 16 years after Bruno´s death, another bear ventured into Bavaria. It is the first bear since Bruno on German soil and there are parallels between the two. This new bear, which could not be identified so far, also came from Trentino and crossed Tirol, a state of Austria, on its way. A first sign of its presence were tracks found in June, still on the Austrian side of the border. In October, a trailcamera caught him on photo in Bavaria for the first time.

Bears are not aggressive and do not pose a threat to humans in most cases

After that first confirmed sighting, there were no more signs for four months. However, it seems that the bear spend his hibernation either in Germany or in Austria close to the border. Footprints were found close to Garmisch-Partenkirchen around the 15th February – close to where the bear was caught on photo in October.

Bavaria learned from Bruno

After the second discovery, the Bavarian Department for Environment issued a statement. It called upon the public to remain calm and take care not to leave waste behind on hikes around Garmisch-Partenkirchen. In addition, the department informed livestock owners around the place of discovery. The department has used the experience from Bruno to set up a management plan for large carnivores. This plan details steps in case of the return of wolves and bears. But it announced that so far no further measures are necessary, since the bear has not caused any problems.

[…] We now have a bear and we are not used to living along this animal anymore. The challenge is to learn how to treat each other, live with each other and acknowledge everybody´s right.

Expert for Wildlife Management, Bavarian Department for Environment

Experts expect that the bear is not going to stay in Bavaria for long. Since the nearest bear population in Trentino is 120 km away, he won´t find a mating partner and eventually return to its birthplace.

This story shows that Bavaria learned from its mistakes. The authorities seem to be much better prepared than in Bruno´s case. At the same time, public and media stay calm and do not blow this story out of proportion. After the re-eastablishment of wolves in Germany and Bavaria has been a real success story for years, it is just a matter of time until bears will re-establish in Austria and eventually Germany, too. There is place for humans and large carnivores all around Europe.

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