The hunt for Bruno the brown bear is starting to get embarrassing. The furry predator who has killed dozens of Alpine sheep strolled through a Bavarian village, sat on the steps of the local police station and ate a guinea pig. Locals are starting to have their doubts about the crack team of Finnish bear trackers brought in to catch him.
Last Friday night Bruno was spotted strolling through the Bavarian village of Kochel am See where he stopped to sit on the steps of the police station, sniffed round a café, ate a rabbit and a guinea pig, overturned a beehive to lick out some honey, and disappeared back into the forest.
Dietmar Zeindl, 61, who was out walking his two dogs, saw him: “The bear walked along the pavement quite calmly. I saw him clearly because he walked unter a lamppost. Just like a normal pedestrian,” Zeindl told Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Bruno didn’t look especially dangerous, Zeindl added.
The dead rabbit was the pet bunny of a 12-year-old local girl, Vroni Seybold, who told German television she was glad her parents had forbidden her to sleep in a tent in the garden that night. “The bear dragged the hutch out of the stable, you can see his clawmarks on it,” the remarkably sanguine girl told German television.
Bruno has killed dozens of sheeps and a growing number of chickens and rabbits — and now a guinea pig — over the last month, prompting Alpine authorities to order him caught. While there are around 20 bears roaming wild around the Alps in Austria alone, Bruno is regarded as a problem because he isn’t shy of humans and has taken to scavenge for food close to where people live.
“We’re worried something will go wrong and someone will do the wrong thing when he comes round the corner and faces them, or that he will feel cornered,” said Manfred Wölfl,the Bavarian government’s official in charge of bear issues. It’s a new appointment because Bruno is the first bear to have ventured into Germany in 170 years.
The huntershave been ordered to anaesthetize him so that he can be put in a fenced-off wildlife park but the government said that if he keeps eluding them, it will reinstate permission for hunters to shoot him dead.
Reports of encounters between Bruno and Bavarians are indeed mounting. Last week he came sniffing round a ski hut in the border region between Germany and Austria. Ursula Berghammer, a woman living in the hut, told reporters: “When I came out the bear was standing on the terrace.” She chased him off by barking like a dog.
The Finnish hunters commissioned by Alpine authorities to catch Bruno are starting to come under fire in the German press for failing to catch him. The last week has indeed been frustrating for them. First their dogs couldn’t take the summer heat and had to rest, then rain washed away his scent.
At one point their dogs did manage to encircle Bruno but the hunters chose not to close in on him because it was too dark.
“It’s starting to get ’embearrassing’,” said tabloid daily Bild Zeitung. “A whole village saw the hooligan bear going for a walk — the Finnish hunters didn’t …”
Now the hapless team has been reinforced by Raiku I, described by the Bavarian government as “Finland’s best bear tracking dog” — a true Ronaldo among hunting dogs in fact. Now five Finnish hunters and six bear tracking dogs are looking for him. They aim to catch him by next Sunday, when their €25,000 contract runs out.