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Switzerland, You Had ONE BEAR...
February 24, 2013 2:17 PM   Subscribe

There was one wild bear left in Switzerland. Last year, M13 (Mike to his friends) was displaying troubling behavior, but a bear expert with the World Wildlife Foundation was optimistic about the possibility of retraining him (via rubber bullets and firecrackers) to be more wary of humans and less likely to forage near houses for food.

Sadly, it didn't work, and M13 was shot and killed by authorities in the Alps near the Italian border last week, soon after coming out of hibernation and reverting to form.

M13 was born in Italy as part of a reintroduction program approximately two years ago, and his home country is taking it particularly hard. (Headline stolen from HyperVocal.)
posted by Etrigan (84 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
During his brief time in the country, he broke into a home, was hit by a train, and started a fire.

.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 2:26 PM on February 24, 2013 [31 favorites]


Sad. Swiss have an affinity to bears; witness the Bärengraben, which has been a presence in the capital for 500 years. It would be nice to see them get wild bears again.
posted by gumpstump at 2:27 PM on February 24, 2013


> It would be nice to see them get wild bears again.

They have a greater population density than the state of Delaware. I'd say the Age of Wild Swiss Bears is over.
posted by codswallop at 2:36 PM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Does Delaware have bears?
posted by cjorgensen at 2:39 PM on February 24, 2013


Biden will tell you a thing about the bears he used to party with....
posted by armoir from antproof case at 2:51 PM on February 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Swiss have an affinity to bears; witness the Bärengraben,

By these standards I have an affinity for kids, if by affinity you mean I would be happy putting them in a pit and selling vegetables to visiting youths to chuck at them.
posted by biffa at 2:53 PM on February 24, 2013 [26 favorites]


Well, there's Bear, Delaware.

Oh, there's a bear warning to Delaware campers, and Delaware Water Gap park is home to hundreds of black bears.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm tempted to believe the WWF bear expert who said "[M13] was in no way a problem bear" on this one because frankly the Swiss are famous for freaking out over messy situations.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:54 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I would be happy putting [kids] in a pit and selling vegetables to visiting youths to chuck at them

Good luck bringing back that fine old tradition in Obama's nanny-state fascist America!
posted by yoink at 2:56 PM on February 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


They have a greater population density than the state of Delaware. I'd say the Age of Wild Swiss Bears is over.

Yes, but they also have a fuckload of Alps without all that many people on them.
posted by maryr at 2:59 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe the bear wanted to build a minaret.
posted by maryr at 3:01 PM on February 24, 2013 [42 favorites]


Upside: Swiss pick-a-nick baskets are finally safe.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 3:09 PM on February 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


Can Brown Bears Survive in the Pyrenees?
posted by gimonca at 3:15 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


No he'sa not, he'sa wearin' a necka-tie!
posted by Brocktoon at 3:31 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


And Austrians were bleating about wolves coming in from the Czech Republic to harass their sheep.

Not all wild animals are nice. Part of having a properly-functioning ecosystem is having to deal with animals that might hurt you or your domesticated animals. These supposed "drawbacks" of having real predators in the ecosystem are worth it.
posted by dunkadunc at 3:34 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


These supposed "drawbacks" of having real predators in the ecosystem are worth it.

This bear was breaking into houses and setting fires. M13 was a hoodlum! A hoodlum!
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:39 PM on February 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


They have a greater population density than the state of Delaware. I'd say the Age of Wild Swiss Bears is over.

New Jersey has the highest population density of any US state and we still have bears. Even annual hunts to control the population. It can be done.
posted by johnjreiser at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


because frankly the Swiss are famous for freaking out over messy situations.

Just look at the cool aplomb with which they handled the Julian Assange case.

M13 was a hoodlum!

You do mean terrorist, don't you? It's only terrorists that we kill at a distance by remote control without due process.
posted by localroger at 3:43 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Delaware River ends in Delaware but mostly runs the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The camping warnings are for the Delaware Water Gap which is near the Pocono Mountains. Just saying.
posted by CaptainZingo at 3:50 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Poor bear.

Yes, why couldn't they have hauled him by helicopter to some remote Alpine location? Of course, he was probably looking for the girlybear, poor sod.
posted by BlueHorse at 3:53 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The hills are alive with the sound of.......ROAR!!!! And that's the true story of what happened to the original Mrs Von Trapp.

Meanwhile on Heidy: Heidy and Peter investigate a the mystery of the disappearing goats and are trapped in a cave by a bear. Will grandfather arrive to rescue them.
posted by humanfont at 3:55 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 4:02 PM on February 24, 2013


There are plenty of black bear in most parts of Japan, itself a densely populated country.
posted by KokuRyu at 4:11 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


You do mean terrorist, don't you? It's only terrorists that we kill at a distance by remote control without due process.

I am not sure the Swiss quite deserve that jab....
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:12 PM on February 24, 2013


Of course, he was probably looking for the girlybear, poor sod.

This would be very unusual behavior based on my observation of bears.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:13 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Finally, someone has found a reason to mention Delaware!
posted by Edgewise at 4:20 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


"M13 was a hoodlum! A hoodlum!"

Live fast, die young, and leave a beautiful corpse. And mark a lot of trees with your scent.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:27 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Poor Bear.

He was sleeping all winter and only just came out of hibernation. He was certainly hungry. Maybe he was cold, too.

He probably just wanted to snuggle!

And nobody gave him any loving.

*sniff*

I need to go give my big fluffy cat a hug now.
posted by misha at 4:36 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Great “Do Bears Hibernate?” Debate: Their sleeping patterns are weird. Their sex is weirder.
posted by homunculus at 4:43 PM on February 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Poor bear.

.
posted by magstheaxe at 5:22 PM on February 24, 2013


I like the idea of importing North American brown bears to the Alps. Fuck yeah, let's have some entertainment.
posted by Ber at 5:24 PM on February 24, 2013


Ber: "I like the idea of importing North American brown bears to the Alps. Fuck yeah, let's have some entertainment"

Let's do this properly. Polar bears in the high alps, grizzlies further down.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:29 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just look at the cool aplomb with which they handled the Julian Assange case.

I seem to have missed Assange's run-in with the Swiss state.

Unless you mean either “Roman Polanski” or “Swedes”.
posted by acb at 5:30 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


I tried explaining this article to my girlfriend just now and got as far as "There's a program to re-introduce bears to Switzerland..." before I sounded like a supervillain.
posted by greenland at 5:31 PM on February 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Can anyone explain why they didn't relocate him?
posted by arcticseal at 6:15 PM on February 24, 2013


"Switzerland: A Fuckload of Alps" could maybe be a tourism slogan.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:16 PM on February 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Speciesism is an extremely ugly disease of perception and incredibly stupid but, even more than that, that fact that Mike (M13) was murdered by "authorities" is heartbreakingly sad.
posted by chance at 6:21 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anyone explain why they didn't relocate him?

to where? - it's not like there's a great deal of wilderness in that part of europe
posted by pyramid termite at 6:30 PM on February 24, 2013


Even in more sparsely populated parts of British Columbia, it can very difficult to relocate a "problem" bear that associates humans with food - the bears wander back into settlements in search of food, so it seems like it would be hard to find a place in the Alps that would be remote enough.

A better thing to do would be to start over with new wild bears.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:33 PM on February 24, 2013


Even in more sparsely populated parts of British Columbia, it can very difficult to relocate a "problem" bear that associates humans with food - the bears wander back into settlements in search of food, so it seems like it would be hard to find a place in the Alps that would be remote enough.

This. I was a camp counselor in northern California a coupla decades back, and the authorities would relocate the same bears all the way to Canada every year or two. The bears would go from camp to village to camp on their "return tour," remembering exactly where they could get food.
posted by Etrigan at 6:41 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I was living in England in 1992, we found a tragically bad guidebook that said of the bears in the Bärengraben, "How they love figs!" in a brittle, shrill Edwardian tone.

Naturally, we took a packet of Tesco figs with us when we headed south to the continent, and sure enough the bears stood up on their hind legs and waved their forepaws at us to beg for the figs.

. for Mike, but (insert Unicode character for fireworks here) when I think about the idea of turning those grizzly/polar bear hybrids loose in the high Alps.
posted by wenestvedt at 6:43 PM on February 24, 2013


BlueHorse: "why couldn't they have hauled him by helicopter to some remote Alpine location? Of course, he was probably looking for the girlybear, poor sod."

Bears aren't homebodies and will range over hundreds of kilometres. A problem bear can't be relocated because they just become someone else's problem.
posted by Mitheral at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also: This bear was breaking into houses and setting fires. M13 was a hoodlum! A hoodlum!

Duh, he's a gang bear. His name is M13, which, you know...M13
posted by wenestvedt at 6:46 PM on February 24, 2013


I like the idea of importing North American brown bears to the Alps.

You'll never be able to get the capital to launch that business. Investors hate bear markets.
posted by Malor at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


wenestvedt: ". for Mike, but (insert Unicode character for fireworks here) when I think about the idea of turning those grizzly/polar bear hybrids loose in the high Alps."

The high Alps? Screw that. Set them loose in Acadia National Park. That place has been too Disneyland for years. The tourists need something to put a spring in their step.
posted by dunkadunc at 6:56 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


hm. Swiss wild bears. I'm pretty sure this guy wasn't the last or only one. Not that I would know, mind. But I did buy my first leather jacket there and I still have a pair of boots bought around the same time.

So what I'm saying is, there is a merchant population already catering to the needs of Swiss bears. They have a canton and national capitol named after them, for chocolate's sake!
posted by mwhybark at 6:57 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


to where? - it's not like there's a great deal of wilderness in that part of europe
posted by alex_skazat at 7:01 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I visited Gottingen five years ago, the graffiti that I saw could be loosely translated as: "The World Points in Shame At The Bear-Murderers!"
posted by ovvl at 7:18 PM on February 24, 2013


Okay, the bearlessness of Switzerland could be turned into a positive. Maybe as part of the "Switzerland: A Fuckload of Alps" campaign. Market it to bear-phobic hikers. Commercial of an American all sad because he wishes he could go hiking, but, well, there's all these fucking bears. If only there were somewhere he could go to hiking without being bothered by bears. but wait, there is! Close the ad with this tagline:

"Does a bear shit in Switzerland?" No!"
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:25 PM on February 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


Re-enactment on YouYube.
posted by pwnguin at 8:01 PM on February 24, 2013


So, the you had one job reference made me laugh, but then I felt bad about it. A lot. I hope future reintroduction programs bear fruit.
posted by snuffleupagus at 8:47 PM on February 24, 2013


Goodnight, sweet M13, and may flights of, uh, stars sing thee to thy -- aw, screw it I got nothing. M13 is a globular cluster.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:55 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


to where? - it's not like there's a great deal of wilderness in that part of europe

My excellent friend, you could not be more wrong with your use of strikethrough. You see, if you just go far enough east...
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 9:12 PM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


My excellent friend, you could not be more wrong with your use of strikethrough. You see, if you just go far enough east...

That is an utterly charming essay.
posted by fshgrl at 9:33 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


They should have relocated the bear to St. Moritz. It's too posh and too far from anywhere to matter.
posted by Goofyy at 9:37 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


ivan, hell yes. that guy is a freakin' inspiration.
posted by mwhybark at 9:53 PM on February 24, 2013


There are plenty of black bear in most parts of Japan, itself a densely populated country.

I thought Japan was densely populated in the densely populated areas, and depopulated elsewhere, like Yubari in Hokkaido:

"It's always been about the unparalleled enormity of what Yubari has been through in the last half-century, as it lost almost all its coal mines in a single generation, from 1965 to 1990, and a staggering 90% of its population in two generations: 1960 to the present. The poster children for the industrial decline of the US, places like Youngstown, Ohio, Gary, Indiana, even the baddest of them all, Detroit – none come close to the experience of Yubari, which has gone from being a vibrant if still gritty metropolis of around 120,000 people in 1960, replete with cinemas, dancehalls, and even a five-storey department store, to a ... city in name only, its 11,500 people strung out across the hills and mountains in what now amounts to no more than a straggle of villages."
posted by zippy at 10:08 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


From Ivan's link:

The immensity isn’t immediately obvious because everything is on the same huge scale, but all you have to do is walk up to a trunk to realize that you are now a smurf.

I am now a smurf!
posted by medusa at 10:19 PM on February 24, 2013


I like this quip in The Awl:
"The male bear, known as M13, was shot dead by wildlife rangers on Tuesday, said Adrian Aeschlimann, spokesman for the Federal Office for the Environment. 'The cull was carried out according to the management plan for bears in Switzerland,' he told AFP on Wednesday."
—Imagine that quote in the original German.
posted by ceribus peribus at 11:33 PM on February 24, 2013


ceribus peribus: "'The cull was carried out according to the management plan for bears in Switzerland,' he told AFP on Wednesday." —Imagine that quote in the original German."
No need to imagine when we have teh intarwebs.
Der Abschuss erfolgte gestützt auf das Konzept Bär Schweiz.
Also, that article about the Białowieża forest is amazing.
The principal large mammals in Białowieża are the bison, moose, wolf, boar, bobcat, and graduate student. The last spends a lengthy juvenile period studying forest theory in Western Europe before migrating in to do field work and possibly mate. The nutrient-rich graduate student is a cornerstone of the forest food pyramid, a conveniently mobile, heated feed bag for a variety of small cosmic horrors. Since there is so little real forest left in Europe, the supply of these initially pink-cheeked graduate students is limitless and easily replenished. If you step quietly, so as not to spook them, you can see them sometimes through the trees, catching frogs with nets, cataloguing the various insects buried in their skin, or peering resignedly into bird holes. They look pale.
posted by brokkr at 1:18 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


(Actually, since this is Switzerland, the original quote could also be "L’abbattimento è stato eseguito conformemente alla Strategia Orso Svizzera" or "L’abattage de l’ours s’est fait suivant le Plan de gestion de l’ours en Suisse", though I'll agree that Adrian Aeschlimann sounds germanophone.)
posted by brokkr at 2:50 AM on February 25, 2013


Poor Bear.

posted by misha


Of course you'd say so.
posted by ersatz at 5:41 AM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


According to the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Natural Resources, in the last 5 years bears have been spotted in every county in the state, except for Arlington City. That may just be because no one has seen it yet, as they are even spotting them across the river in DC.

It never fails to surprise me (as someone who's lived most of his life in a country where, despite centuries of effort to rid our continent of its fauna, even our most developed and urban spots have to share space with numerous animals) that nearly all of Europe, even some of the remote hinterlands, are largely devoid of many of the large animals that used to roam there.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:07 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a little disappointed that the German for "management plan for bears in Switzerland" wasn't one giant word all schmooshed together.
posted by gimonca at 6:21 AM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Schweizerbärenverwaltungsprogramm?
posted by crazy_yeti at 7:18 AM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


The poor bear had no way to defend himself. I believe in the right to arm bears.
posted by w0mbat at 8:22 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


...a fuckload of Alps...

Thank you. You don't know how long I've been looking for the collective noun for Alps.
posted by steambadger at 9:23 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: I still remember the time a buck ran into my sister's car as we were driving down a Lee Highway in Arlington. I expect bear will make it there as well.
posted by tavella at 10:11 AM on February 25, 2013


I can see it's been a while, steambadger. It seems to have taken its toll. You're looking a bit peaked.
posted by maryr at 10:13 AM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, that article about the Białowieża forest is amazing.

Previously.
posted by homunculus at 11:26 AM on February 25, 2013


I thought Japan was densely populated in the densely populated areas, and depopulated elsewhere, like Yubari in Hokkaido:

This is true, but there are black bears all over the place in the hills in many parts of the country besides Hokkaido.

For example, Fukui (a rural prefecture where I spend the most time) has a population density of 191.87/km2.

Switzerland has a population density of 188/km2.

There are enough bears in Fukui that hikers are warned to wear bells when going into the hills, and bears do come down at harvest time in the fall and in the spring to farmers' fields.

So if Japan can do it, so can the Swiss.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:11 PM on February 25, 2013


Konzept Bär Schweiz

"NYC's hottest nightclub is Konzept Bär Schweiz. Run out of a cage at the Bronx Zoo by retired animal pornographer Fozzie Bear-Assed, this club answers the question, "Roar?" It's got everything. Bears, the other kind of bears, the other other kind of bears, druged-out teenagers in Swiss Guard costumes, and Human Swiss Army Knives. It's that thing of when a contortionist ties knives to his hands, screwdrivers to his feet and a corkscrew to his--"

"Thank you, Stefon, that's enough."
posted by Rock Steady at 2:22 PM on February 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


Japan and Switzerland seem like a pretty good comparison in terms of mountains and valleys. It's just that the Swiss don't have active volcanoes and the Japanese don't necessarily put a tunnel through everything.
posted by maryr at 3:04 PM on February 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Japanese don't necessarily put a tunnel through everything.

Come again?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:36 PM on February 25, 2013


Yeah, I realize it was probably an incorrect statement not long after saying it. Japan does have some of the world's longest and least used tunnels. My boss likes to joke that the Swiss never saw a mountain they wouldn't like to put a tunnel through, so that influenced my thinking.

As an apology, have a Popular Mechanics article on interesting tunnels that is needlessly broken into 18 pages that I found while trying to remember the name of the Aqua Line.
posted by maryr at 5:28 PM on February 25, 2013


Medieval Fact: Bears Are Humans' Closest Relatives among Animals
posted by homunculus at 8:03 PM on February 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll agree that Adrian Aeschlimann sounds germanophone.

Ring ring ring ring
Ring ring ring
Germanophone!

I'll show myself auf
posted by zippy at 9:35 PM on February 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Medieval Fact: Bears Are Humans' Closest Relatives among Animals

That's almost understandable on a continent without monkeys and therefore no cultural reference, but in Korean mythology, which includes monkeys, a bear (Ungyo) is the mother of the first human emperor!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:56 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The 10th Regiment of Foot: "a continent without monkeys"
Ahem.
posted by brokkr at 7:09 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


From your link: All Gibraltar Barbary macaques are descended from North African populations of Barbary macaques. DNA evidence has established beyond doubt the present population is of relatively recent Algerian and Moroccan origin. No traces were found of a third source for their DNA, namely of any ancient, no longer surviving Iberian population.

Perhaps I should have said, no native monkeys since the ice age?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:15 AM on February 26, 2013


Ring ring ring ring
Ring ring ring
Germanophone!


"Hello? Who's there?"

"VEE ASK ZE QVESTIONS!"
posted by yoink at 8:48 AM on February 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


"EET VAS A PLEASURE BABYSITTING KEVIN!"
posted by maryr at 9:01 AM on February 26, 2013


"This means an adult that weighs 200 pounds might have to Instagram more than 30 pounds of bamboo a day"
posted by -t at 10:15 AM on February 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


More from the Gibraltar article:

Gibraltar's barbary macaque population was under the care of the British Army and later the Gibraltar Regiment from 1915 to 1991, who carefully controlled a population that initially consisted of a single troop. An officer was appointed to supervise their welfare, and a food allowance of fruit, vegetables and nuts was included in the budget. Births were gazetted in true military fashion, and each new arrival was named. They were named after governors, brigadiers and high-ranking officers. Any ill or injured monkey needing surgery or any other form of medical attention was taken to Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar and received the same treatment as would an enlisted service man. Following the withdrawal of the British garrison, the Government of Gibraltar took over responsibility for the monkeys.
posted by zippy at 9:31 PM on February 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


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