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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 May 2006, 20:33 GMT 21:33 UK
Rare bear ends brief German stay
European brown bear
Wild bears once roamed widely across much of Europe
A wild bear spotted in the German state of Bavaria is believed to have moved back to Austria, a day after officials said it should be captured or killed.

"There have been no sightings or signs of the bear today," said a spokesman for Bavaria's environment ministry.

The bear - who initially got a warm welcome - is believed to have killed seven sheep since it was first spotted over the weekend.

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

'Problem bear'

"Local authorities believe that he [the bear] has returned to Austria," Bavarian Environment Ministry spokesman Roland Eichhorn said.

It gutted [the sheep] and then just ate their hearts and livers
Bavarian farmer

On Sunday, the southern German state's Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf had said the bear was "welcome in Bavaria", and told people they had nothing to fear from the beast.

But by Tuesday, he was describing the animal as "a problem bear".

"A man-bear encounter could occur at any time. It cannot be allowed to roam freely. We will ask hunters to shoot the bear," the minister said.

Bavaria's animal rights groups described the minister's decision as "hysterical".

Now the bear is equally in danger on the southern side of the border, as officials in Austria have also given orders for the bear to be shot, if seen.

Worried farmers

The bear, estimated to weigh 100kg (220lbs), stirred much interest across Germany after its excursion into the Bavarian Alps.

The country's Bild newspaper published pictures of sheep carcasses found in the area and their worried owners.

"It gutted them and then just ate their hearts and livers," the newspaper quoted a local farmer as saying.

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

See the trail of destruction left by the bear

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13 May 06 |  Science/Nature

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