- By Mohammad SaghaMohammad Sagha is an editoral researcher at Foreign Policy.
Crossing the Italian Alps into Bavaria, Bruno "the problem" bear was the first wild bear to be spotted in Germany in over 170 years and garnered so much attention within the country that U.S diplomats wrote a lengthy cable analyzing the surreal incident and broader German culture.
Regarding the roaming bear, according to the cable, a Bavarian official stated:
[F]oreigners are only welcome in Bavaria provided they are willing to adapt to German culture and traditions. Bruno quickly wore out his welcome by raiding stables, killing sheep, chickens, and a child’s pet rabbit. The Bavarian government declared Bruno "Ursus non Grata" and ordered that he be shot or captured. Vexed by Bruno’s unchecked roaming across Bavaria — he was even seen sitting on the steps of a police station eating a guinea pig — Minister-President Edmund Stoiber took to referring to him as "the Problem Bear."
The incident dragged out over a period of time in which "Bruno appeared to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the public," despite an initial order by the Bavarian Environment Minister to kill the bear. However:
following criticism of the edict that Bruno be shot, Schnappauf, [the Environment Minister] gave the animal a stay of execution and, at a cost of over Euro 125,000, flew in a special trap from Colorado and a team of Finnish bear hunters with specially trained dogs. After the Finnish hunters failed at their task, Schnappauf reinstated the shoot-to-kill order… early in the morning of that same day, Bruno met his demise at the hands of an (as yet) unnamed hunter. Bruno, stuffed, is to be put on display at a natural history museum in Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace.
In Bruno’s sad tale, the U.S. diplomat saw a larger message about German society’s relationship to nature and the environment:
True wilderness, even in mountainous Bavaria, hasn’t really existed in Germany for generations — nature is good, as long as it is controlled, channeled, and subdued. If the saga of Bavaria’s "Problem Bear" is any indicator, the strategy of reintroducing wild bears to the Alps, at least the German Alps, may be doomed to failure — that is, unless the bears are willing to cooperate by not being too wild.
Guess it was a slow day in Munich.