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Last Updated: Monday, 22 May 2006, 23:09 GMT 00:09 UK
Bavaria rethinks its bear welcome
European brown bear
Wild bears once roamed widely across much of Europe
A wild bear roaming the German countryside is "out of control" and should be captured or killed, Bavaria's environment minister has said.

The decision to allow hunters to track the bear was a sudden change of heart by the minister, who said on Sunday that the bear was "welcome in Bavaria".

It is thought to be the first bear to roam wild in Germany since 1835.

Seven sheep carcasses have been found, suggesting the animal had learned to hunt for food near farms and homes.

Now Germans, who were previously advised that they had nothing to fear from the bear, are being warned to stay well clear of the beast.

Bavaria's state Environment Minister, Werner Schnappauf, explained the reason for his swift volte-face.

"This bear has become a problem. He seems to be out of control and we cannot take the risk of people being hurt," Mr Schnappauf said.


Mr Schnappauf said the decision to allow hunting of the bear was taken in conjunction with the environmental campaign group the WWF.

Experts said the bear, thought to have been introduced into the wild in Italy, had entered Germany across the nearby Austrian border, probably in search of a mate.

The bear was first spotted last Thursday in a border area in Austria after destroying a beehive.

Austrian wildlife experts who have been following the bear's movements initially said it was unlikely to approach humans.

But an animal expert at the University of Freiburg, Felix Knauer, told the AFP news agency the discovery of the slaughtered sheep was significant.

"We have underestimated the danger posed by this bear," he said.

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