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Germany's wandering bear, "Bruno," killed

6/26/2006

MUNICH, Germany — A brown bear that has killed livestock
and eluded authorities for weeks in southern Germany and Austria
has been shot and killed, a regional official said Monday.

"A shot was fired; the bear is dead," said Manfred Woelfl, the
Bavarian state government's bear specialist. He gave no other
details.

The bear — named "JJ1" but dubbed "Bruno" by German media —
was part of a program in northern Italy to reintroduce the animals
in the Alps. He rambled into Germany last month, becoming the first
wild bear seen in the country since 1835.

The 220-pound bear had not harmed any humans, but had killed
sheep and rabbits and looted beehives. Officials said he was a
hazard because he came near homes and appeared to have lost his
fear of people.

Austrian authorities on Saturday gave hunters permission to kill
the bear if they encountered him. Bavarian officials said they
would consider a similar move as early as Tuesday; it wasn't clear
whether the shooting was authorized.

Authorities originally proposed permitting the bear to be shot,
but backed away after public protest. They tried to capture him
alive and put him in a nature reserve but were unable to catch him.

Even a team of Finnish tracking dogs was unable to corner the
bear so he could be shot with a tranquilizer.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel expressed regret over the
shooting, but said he trusted professional opinion on its
necessity.

German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said he also
understood the decision to shoot, but wondered why attempts to
catch Bruno alive failed.

"No one has been able to explain that to me," he said.

Joern Ehlers, a spokesman for the World Wide Fund for Nature in
Germany, regretted that the bear had been killed but conceded that
the outcome had been expected.

"He found his way into our hearts, although the danger also had
to be seen," Ehlers said.

In Austria, the animal rights group Four Paws denounced the
shooting and said it was a shame that efforts to capture the bear
alive had failed.

"We are extremely dismayed that Bruno had to die," the group
said in a statement, calling for a police investigation.