'Brown bears almost extinct in Alps'
Vienna, June 21: Brown bears face extinction in Europe's Alps with only 38 known to remain in the mountain region, environmentalists said a year after the shooting of a wayward bear shocked animal lovers.
''The population is too small to ensure its survival,'' the World Wildlife Fund's Austria branch said in a statement yesterday.
''We don't know of a single bear in Germany any more,'' WWF spokeswoman Claudia Mohl said.
Brown bears are an officially protected species in the European Union but their survival has been jeopardised by habitat destruction from economic development throughout the Alpine mountain region.
In June 2006, the first bear that was seen in Bavaria for 170 years was shot dead by a German hunter after it neared populated areas and killed dozens of sheep and chickens.
Bruno's shooting caused an outcry especially in Italy, from which he wandered into Germany via Austria, because brown bears have become so rare in Europe's main mountain region.
Animal lovers said Bruno could have just been sedated and removed to a remote location.
Last August, Italian authorities fitted Bruno's mother with a satellite tracking device so she could be monitored and chased away from humans if necessary without being harmed. Mohl said that method would help protect remaining bears.
''Almost all of them pose no problem, keeping their distance from people,'' she said.