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Wild bear killed after losing fear of humans

/ Source: The Associated Press

Sharpshooters killed one of two wild bears in Switzerland after officials determined it had lost its fear of humans and posed a risk, authorities said Tuesday.

Environmental organizations expressed dismay, but government officials said they had no choice. The 2-year-old brown bear was the younger brother of an animal that met the same fate in Germany's Bavaria in 2006. Both were part of a project to reintroduce bears to areas of Europe where they had been extinct.

"JJ3 was getting bolder and bolder, and even let people observe him," said Stefan Engler, president of the canton of Graubuenden. "We saw no other way to influence the behavior of the bear."

The only remaining bear in Switzerland is keeping out of trouble by staying out of sight.

Since he awoke from his winter hibernation, the slain bear wandered through villages in search of food and several times had encountered human beings. No one was reported hurt, but game wardens tried to scare it off by shooting it with rubber pellets and setting off loud explosions.

When that failed to work, the officials said they were forced to classify it as a risk to humans, a death sentence. Authorities also ruled out putting the wild bear in a zoo as cruel.

Switzerland's Chief Hunting Inspector Reinhard Schnidrig said the slaying was "an inevitability that we all saw coming."

For the sharpshooters the job was easy because the bear had been fitted with a tracking device that led them straight to it. The bear was killed Monday evening, officials said.

But environmental organizations said more efforts should have been made first to scare the bear away. Pro Natura and the Swiss Animal Protection organization said JJ3 had never become aggressive toward humans.

The Swiss officials said they think JJ3 learned its fearless habits from its mother, Jurka, who was recently captured in Italy.

A taxidermist will prepare the body for display. The stuffed body of its brother, called Bruno by Germans, was recently placed in a Munich museum.