Swiss officials last month assassinated a brown bear who they determined posed a threat to the country’s human population. The preemptive strike was carried out on Tuesday, February 19, after the 2-year-old creature – insensitively identified by authorities as “M13” – had the audacity to stretch his legs after a period of hibernation and look around for a bite to eat.
A United Press International report indicated that the bear “followed a 14-year-old girl through part of the Swiss city of Poschiavo,” a secluded valley town near the Italian border.
The lede of an Agence France-Presse report explained that “Switzerland’s only recorded wild bear has been culled after fears that it could pose a threat to humans, the authorities announced.”
According to that Agence-France-Presse article, “the animal … had repeatedly headed into inhabited areas to look for food and had even taken to following people. In November 2012, the bear had already been considered problematic and placed on a behaviour-watch list, a step away from a cull order.”
And a Reuters story quoted local wildlife authorities as saying, “the bear’s behaviour couldn’t be changed.”
If there is a species whose behavior needs to change, it is ours.
In April 2006, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported on an effort by governmental officials to design “a strategy document to coordinate the peaceful co-existence of bears and humans.”
That 2006 Swiss Broadcasting Corporation report indicated that “Peppino Beffa, head of the Swiss Sheep Farmers Association, said there was simply no room for bears in heavily populated areas of the country.”
Apparently, there was not room for even one bear in a relatively remote part of Switzerland.
After ordering the 2-year-old bear’s assassination last month, Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment issued an infuriating statement that, as CNN reported, read, in part: “The bear M13 had certainly never showed any aggression toward man, but the risk that an accident might happen and that people might be badly injured or killed had become intolerable.”
What is “intolerable” is the obnoxious expectation that other species live by our mercilessly inhospitable rules.
In this case, the 2-year-old bear failed to obey the rules of peaceful coexistence when he dared to wander out of local residents’ nightmares and onto their streets.
What Swiss wildlife authorities (I hold my nose as I use that description) need to understand, if they’re at all capable, is that “the peaceful co-existence of bears and humans” will require the latter species to change its behavior.
Unfortunately, thanks to the above-mentioned wildlife “authorities,” there are currently no more bears in Switzerland with whom the country’s human residents can even attempt to peacefully coexist.