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CIPRA's point of view: Co-operation, not killing

Karen Schillig is the project manager for ecological networks at CIPRA International © Caroline Begle / CIPRA International

The authorities in Graubünden are demanding that bears be shot in Italy before they cross into Switzerland and potentially cause problems there. Is a preventive shooting really suitable to prevent conflicts with humans?
The reaction of the politicians is comprehensible, but short-sighted. Humans are not used to living close to bears: they are afraid and react defensively. But alternatives are possible. In the Münster Valley, for example, edible waste is locked away, beehives are protected and dogs are used to protect sheep. If bears are not attracted by food, they do not approach humans too closely: thus they do not run the risk of being shot and can continue on their way.
The ways in which humans and bears can live together are already known, for example to the numerous international organisations that have addressed this issue. Experts in the Alpine Convention's working group on "Large Predators, Ungulates living in the Wild and Society" regularly exchange views on how such cohabitation can be improved at transnational level.
International European Union projects are also concerned with the migration of large animals and have already taken concrete measures to improve the networking of habitats. If a bear is faced with an impassable barrier, e.g. a motorway, it will be forced to remain in the area, irrespective of whether there is sufficient natural living space or food available. A "green bridge" would have a connecting effect here, both between the bear's habitats and also between humans and bears. This is just one of many examples cited.
Internationally developed models are required, not just for emergency situations - conflicts and the inevitable shooting - but for preventive bear management planning. Just as children learn to cross the street only when the light is on green, we too have to learn how to deal properly with bears.
Sources and further information: www.20min.ch/schweiz/ostschweiz/story (de), www.cipra.org/en/biodiversity-and-landscape