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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 June 2006, 10:26 GMT 11:26 UK
Bruno's mourners bare their teeth
Bruno the bear, 25 June 06

A row has erupted in Germany over the killing of a brown bear called Bruno, whose ability to dodge hunters had amazed the nation for weeks.

Wildlife conservation groups were outraged the Bavarian authorities had allowed the bear to be shot dead.

The Social Democrats (SPD) in the regional assembly demanded that Bavarian Environment Minister Werner Schnappauf resign.

Bruno was the first brown bear to roam free in Germany for some 170 years.

There are reports that some death threats have been sent to the Bavarian Hunters' Union.

Protests

The authorities have not disclosed the identity of the hunter or hunters who shot Bruno. The bear was killed early on Monday near Spitzingsee in the Bavarian Alps, after a search that lasted weeks.

The Bavarian authorities had said the bear could be shot because it posed a danger to humans - but there is now a dispute about the timing of that authorisation.

Mr Schnappauf's deputy, Otmar Bernhard, voiced regret over Bruno's death but said killing the bear was "the only solution".

The bear had been blamed for killing dozens of sheep. It had crossed the Alps into Germany from Italy in May.

In the German town of Kochel it had also raided a beehive and a rabbit hutch.

A pack of Finnish tracking dogs was brought in to capture Bruno alive, but they failed to corner it. The plan was to shoot the bear with a narcotic dart.

The animal was part of an Italian programme to reintroduce bears to the Alps.

"The efforts to catch the bear alive should have been continued," protested Marlene Wartenberg, of the animal protection group Four Paws.

The SPD's leader in Bavaria, Franz Maget, said "the authorisation to shoot was a mistake and was possibly illegal".

Germany's Animal Protection Federation said the shooting contravened international animal protection agreements.




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