BERLIN – Trackers briefly caught sight of a brown bear blamed for killing livestock in southern Germany and Austria, but the animal eluded capture Friday by slipping into the dark. It is the first bear seen in Germany since 1835.
Authorities in the southern state of Bavaria, using a team of Finnish hunting dogs, have been trying for days to capture the bear alive, after a previous order to trap it and shoot it sparked an outcry from animal rights activists.
The bear — affectionately known as Bruno — came from northern Italy, where it was part of a program to reintroduce the animals to the Italian Alps. The animal ambled into Germany last month.
But Bruno has been blamed in the killing of livestock and has approached homes, raising fears it could pose a danger to people.
The trackers came within 650 yards of the bear around 1 a.m. Friday after one of the dogs detected its scent, said Manfred Woelfl, an official with the Bavarian Environment Ministry.
"The bear became nervous and distracted and we had the chance to move in undetected," he said.
But the darkness posed too much of a danger to the trackers and they had to give up.
Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf said recent sightings give him hope the bear will be captured soon.
"The trackers are getting always closer to the bear," Schnappauf said. "We're doing everything to remove him from the wild alive."
The bear has been spotted several times and even photographed, but so far he has eluded the dogs. It was struck by a car Wednesday near the Sylvenstein reservoir south of Munich but apparently was not badly hurt and managed to escape.
Local authorities have asked residents to be on the lookout and inform police of any sightings or tracks.
If captured, the bear is to be released in a nature reserve near Munich or returned to his home in northern Italy.