A wild brown bear has been sighted in Germany for the first time in over 170 years. After it killed other animals, officials have approved shooting the bear, but now it looks as if he's chosen to leave voluntarily.
The bear has left a few traces, such as these hairs caught on barbed wire
After crossing the border from Austria over the weekend, the animal had been steadily moving through the southern state of Bavaria. It feasted on farm animals and raided honey farms. Bavarian government officials, who first welcomed the bear, then feared for the safety of humans and have the go-ahead for the bear to be shot and killed.
"Licensed hunters have a clear order to shoot the bear," said Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf. "It has gotten used to looking for food in residential areas. This bear has become a problem. He seems to be out of control and we cannot take the risk of people being hurt."
This farmer's sheep were killed by the bear
While some animal lovers were outraged over the shoot-to-kill order, animal welfare agencies agreed that the bear had to be stopped as quickly as possible, said Roland Melisch from the World Wildlife Fund in Germany.
"We all welcome this bear coming in from Tirol, but what can we do?" asked Melisch. "There is no way to risk one human life for such a creature, and this bear appears to be a young bear, a sub-adult, which is looking for food. Usually they are very aware of humans and try not to encounter humans, they are shy. But this guy is different, and it makes life dangerous close to him."
Searchi n g for alter n atives
There is still a chance that the bear might be discovered and caught alive by animal welfare agencies, but finding a home could prove difficult. Officials at the Munich Zoo have said they won't put a wild bear in a cage because it won't get along with its tamer brown bears.
Will the bear -- which looks similar to this one -- survive his Bavarian outing?
Two animal protection groups, however, have offered to house the bear in a three-hectar (7.4-acre) enclosure to prevent the animal from being shot.
All the hype and screaming headlines in German tabloids must have convinced the young brown bear that Germany's not such a welcoming place to roam after all. On Tuesday afternoon, Bavarian officials said that he has probably left the country and returned to Austria.
"We don't think he's in Bavaria anymore," said one official, adding that the search for the bear had been halted.
Still, it appears that the bear's ploy to stay alive might not work out: Austrian authorities have also called for the bear to be shot upon sight -- but only from authorized hunters.