BRaunbar Bruno, who immigrated to Bavaria from Italy 16 years ago, has captured the world’s attention. “Mr. Bruno Goes on a Picnic” is how The New York Times described his snacks with rabbit, chicken and sheep. Because he was so bold, he was dropped and ended up stuffed into the museum.
Since then, individual bears have walked through Bavaria for only a short time: two years ago there was one bear in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Now another one has appeared there – and with it the question: can bears ever come home again in this country?
There are certainly areas suitable for bears in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, says Moritz Klose, a wildlife expert with the WWF Environmental Foundation. “It is unlikely that a large population will develop in the foreseeable future.” Attempting to settle as it was 30 years ago in Austria is not currently an option for Germany. “I don’t think anyone would come up with the idea of reintroducing bears to Germany.”
Obviously, not everyone will be excited about wild bears. “You can already see that there are conflicts with wolves and lynxes,” Klose says. However, unlike wolves, bears are omnivores. 75 percent of their diet is plants – and so they often have no appetite for sheep, goats or chickens. Until they learn that humans have food, they stay away.
Klose, like the Bavarian State Office of the Environment (LfU), has called on hikers not to leave any leftovers in nature and not to go in search of the new bear.
Bruno’s successor looks cute as he rolls on the grass early in the morning in front of the wildlife camera. No one had ever seen him in person, and no cattle carcasses are known. “In the end, the bear behaves exactly as one would like: it avoids everything that has to do with civilization,” says Christian Schwerer, mayor of Olstatt, where the bear fell into the trap of photography. LfU also confirms that the bear has been inconspicuous so far.
Bruno showed that the bear doesn’t just act like a cute teddy bear. He ate sheep, stole honey, ransacked chicken coops, ran around – and threatened to become a danger to people. This justifies the protected predator’s shooting license.
In Germany, people exterminated bears and wolves a long time ago. In 1835, the last brown bear in Germany was shot in Ruhpolding, and a little later the last wolf was killed. The wolves are now back in Germany.
According to WWF, a large bear population of more than 900 bears in Slovenia, but also wolves and lynxes live in Slovenia. The largest number of bears closest to Germany lives in Trentino, Italy, about 120 kilometers from Bavaria. There are currently about 60 bears there.
An attempt to resettle bears in eastern Austria in the early 1990s failed. The population sometimes included more than 20 animals. Ten years ago she disappeared without a trace. Perhaps not alone: after the death of a hunter, a stuffed bear was found at the widow. Now a few migratory animals live in the area again.
An LfU spokesperson says individual bears from Italy or Austria can also migrate to or through Bavaria. But: “Unlike wolves, it cannot be assumed that the permanent presence of bears will establish itself in Bavaria due to the lack of females.” In addition, the suitable habitat for bears in Bavaria is more restricted.
WWF expert Klose also says, “If there are many settlements, roads or ski areas, these are the factors that make bears less likely to settle.” Rivers such as inns, highways, and railways may also have contributed to the fact that according to JJ1 – Bruno’s scientific name as the maiden of Father Jose and Mother Gorka – bears rarely reached Bavaria.
A brown bear was last seen in Bavaria about two years ago. Whether it is the same as the one depicted is now open. LfU experts are still searching the area for excrement and traces of fur from “The New”. Using DNA analysis, it will be possible to determine exactly where the animal came from – and whether it became prominent at all. It is also not yet clear whether it is a male or female animal. However, adolescent males migrate most often.
Alpine growers are skeptical. They oppose the settlement of wolves and are calling for the strict ban on shooting to be eased. When it comes to bears, people are more conservative, says Hans Stockl, managing director of Almwirtschafts Verein, Upper Bavarian. As long as they do not go near grazing animals, this is not a problem. “Basically, you can imagine bears – as long as they remain herbivores.”
As long as he is alone. A larger group of bears — “That would be problematic,” says Stockel. However, there is a lack of practical experience in protecting sheep and other grazing animals from bears.
At first, Stöckl had a benevolent view of the new bear in Upper Bavaria. “As long as he trots peacefully through the night, eats grass in front of the camera or looks for plants, you can’t be angry with a bear.”