Brown bear returns to the Swiss Alps for first time in 100 years - Europe - World - The Independent

Brown bear returns to the Swiss Alps for first time in 100 years

Eyewitnesses report having caught a glimpse of a bear on Monday night in the Alps near the Swiss border with northern Italy, where a corridor of land was set aside earlier this year to encourage an existing population to spread north.

Officials in the eastern Ofenpass National Park were still searching yesterday for crucial evidence, such as droppings, tracks or hair, that could confirm the sighting.

Three nature-lovers claim to have seen the bear from a distance of 600 metres with binoculars. They say the animal emerged from a wooded area into an open meadow, where they were able to watch it for 20 minutes. The light was too weak to photograph it.

If their sighting proves to be correct - and conservationists, who have been waiting for the return for the past six months, say the testimony is credible - the comeback would be a boon for Switzerland.

The Government is keen to attract the species back to its mountains and has created three corridors of land linking the eastern Swiss hills with the Trentino region of Italy, between 24 and 54 miles away.

This week's sighting suggests that at least one bear has made the journey across the border in search of fresh hunting ground.

If its presence is confirmed, the lone creature should be able to acclimatise well to its new surroundings, according to the Swiss-based Worldwide Fund for Nature. It is thought that brown bears, once widespread in Europe but now endangered due to loss of habitat, would have no difficulty adapting to the undulating Swiss countryside.

But whether or not they are welcomed by the farming population, already battling other newly returned predators, is another matter. A recently re-established lynx population in the Bernese Oberland has led to a fall in the numbers of local sheep and cattle, while mystery still clouds the fate of a wolf which wandered into Switzerland from France several years ago and was found to have died inexplicably, or was killed, in the countryside.

But the re-appearance of the brown bear should in general be cause for rejoicing. The animals have, after all, always been the mascots of the capital, Berne, where they have decorated the canton's flag and coat of arms and have been kept as popular public attractions since 1480.

The relationship between the city and its ursine inhabitants has, however, always been fraught. Berne may well be named after the German word Bären, meaning "bears", but the reason for the christening bestows rather less honour on the animals than might be initially thought. Legend has it that a bear was the first unlucky animal to be killed during a hunt when the city was founded in 1191, and that the ruling duke, Berthold V, simply wanted to set the historic bloodshed in stone.

News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Markets Analyst

£400000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy Markets An...

Junior Web Analyst – West Sussex – Up to £35k DOE

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Nursery Manager

£22000 - £23000 per annum: Randstad Education Bristol: We are currently recrui...

Web Analyst – Permanent – Up to £40k - London

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week