How do bear protection products affect people?

Talk of
Minister of State Dr. Werner Schnappauf
Report to the Bavarian State Parliament on the killing of the brown bear "JJ1"
Munich, July 13, 2006
-Manuscript version-

I feel very sorry that the first brown bear in Bavaria had to come to such an end in over 170 years.
The decision to have him killed was a very difficult one for me personally - however, given the current situation, it was no longer justifiable to take any other path.

Commitment to human protection
An internationally recognized principle of bear management is:
"Human protection comes before bear protection."
Austria and Switzerland, the USA and Canada, for example, proceed according to this principle.

As the minister responsible for the protection of species, I expressly acknowledge this top priority of human protection! With my oath of office, I swore to fulfill my official duties conscientiously.

Caring for the people in Bavaria is one of the official duties of the state government, and it must be a concern of all of us here in this committee. Surely it cannot be that some in our society put a wild animal over the safety of people - should a person, perhaps even a child, be seriously injured or even killed?

I am convinced that bears can find a habitat again in the Northern Alps - but we have to consider two cornerstones:

  • First, the already mentioned priority of people's safety,
  • Second, we humans have to learn again to take bears seriously as wild animals.
    The brown bear is a large predator with all of its natural instincts:
    There is no place for false romance here!
    We cannot transfer the familiar image of the dear plush bear of our childhood to the brown bear:
    A belittling as a harmless cuddly teddy, an inactive acceptance of the search for food in human settlements out of a misunderstood love of animals are irresponsible and endanger humans and animals.
  • Without observing these cornerstones, a compatible coexistence of humans and predators in our densely populated areas cannot be represented from the outset!

Experts from the start for launch
The guidelines of international bear management were also observed in Bavaria for "JJ 1" from the start.
On May 22nd, the incidents in Grainau made it clear for the first time that "JJ 1" was apparently causing considerable problems -
before we were looking forward to the first bear with us.
On the same day, Bavaria signed the experienced Austrian bear management team.
Bavaria has coordinated its entire procedure with Tyrol.

The Ministry of the Environment took advice from high-ranking scientists and bear specialists when dealing with "JJ1":

  • the coordination office for bear management in Austria (KOST),
  • the Austrian bear advocates Wagner and Dr. Rauer, who have significantly built up bear management in Austria,
  • a team of experts from the University of Freiburg and
  • the Bavarian experts on large predators Wölfl and Wotschikowsky.

The procedure for "JJ1" was based solely on professional evaluations.
All bear experts on the matter unanimously agreed that "JJ1" was a risk bear.
You recommended his kill from the start.

I quote from the opinion of the Austrian bear advocates of 23 May:
"For this reason, and in particular for the protection of human ... life, it is ... necessary
to eliminate the resulting and existing risk potential by shooting the brown bear. "
A re-education of "JJ1" was judged from the beginning as hardly promising, I quote further:
"This negative and undesirable behavior ... cannot be expelled from him at the moment, because ... no way has been found to catch and scare him. The chances of success ... decrease with every feed intake in the vicinity of the person. "

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the technically sound judgment of recognized experts, who have demonstrably been interested in the reintroduction of bears in the Alpine region for a long time.

"JJ1" was a danger to people
According to the unanimous opinion of experts, "JJ1" was a danger to humans.
This judgment was based on the one hand on the dangerous behavior of the animal itself.
This behavior came to a head during "JJ1" 's stay in Bavaria.

  • The bear repeatedly entered closed settlement areas, with critical situations occurring several times.
  • In the end, even during the day, the animal had lost all shyness of people.

On the other hand, the danger that the bear meant for humans was also exacerbated by sometimes gross human carelessness. This went so far that mountain hikers followed the animal at close range in broad daylight.
You can find details on this in the chronology that I have distributed.

Intensive efforts to catch "JJ1" alive
From all of this it is clear that it was not justifiable to leave "JJ1" in the wild any longer.
According to the principles of bear management, there are two ways to remove a bear:

  • Capture and keep safe or
  • shoot.

Although the experts had already advised that it should be shot down on May 22nd, I initially made every effort to ensure that "JJ1" is caught alive. With this decision I took on a high level of personal responsibility. If someone had been harmed during this time, I would of course have been politically responsible without reservation.

  • Over 3 weeks, experts from WWF Austria tried in vain to capture "JJ1" with American tube traps and snares, among other things.
  • After that, an experienced Finnish bear team with 6 bear dogs and a stunning specialist with anesthesia rifle tracked him down for 2 weeks.
    • However, the extraordinary mobility of "JJ1" made it extremely difficult for its pursuers.
    • Once in Kaiserklamm the stunning almost worked - the Finns had put "JJ1"!
    • Press photographers got in the way - a stun shot would have been too risky.
    • After that, unfortunately, there was no further chance.
    • The Finnish team finally stopped trying to catch on June 23, 2006 and returned to Finland.

Killing the bear is inevitable
In the end, killing the bear had become inevitable.
You have to make it clear to yourself that the professional assessment of the experts and the public perception diverged widely. Events such as the forays of "JJ1" near Grainau or the stay in front of the police station in Kochel tended to provoke smiles and sympathy for the animal in public.

The professional rating of the experts was the exact opposite:
They saw it as clear evidence of less and less fear of humans and the increasing danger of the bear,
that "JJ1" invaded human settlements more and more often. From the perspective of the experts, the situation escalated more and more.

Now put yourself in the position of those responsible on June 24th and 25th:

  • 5 weeks of intensive attempts at catching and stunning were unsuccessful.
  • All experts familiar with the matter warn: "The bear is a danger to humans!"
  • All the experts consulted agree that there is no longer any other promising catch concept available.
  • Therefore they recommend again not to wait any longer, but to shoot the bear "as soon as possible".
  • Tyrol will also put its shooting permit back into force at the beginning of the week on Saturday.

In this situation, "JJ1" suddenly appears at the Rotwand - a classic Munich local mountain and a much-frequented hiking area.

  • Within a short period of time there are several critical close encounters with some extremely reckless tourists
    (see chronology).
  • This also leads to a very poor prognosis for further development:
    In view of the great popularity of the animal, more and more careless people are getting closer and closer to the bear.
  • A serious incident with a potentially fatal outcome is only a matter of time.

In this situation, those responsible had no choice but to act to protect the people!
The possibility of a stunning shot was discussed again - but rejected as too risky in the specific situation:
After the Finnish team left, there was no well-rehearsed stunning team with veterinary experts available for a short time.
A stunning shot can only be fired at close range (max. 80 m) and only takes effect after 5 minutes - by then the bear is irritated, aggressive and extremely dangerous. In the heavily frequented alpine pasture area, any possible danger to bystanders should be avoided in any case.

The decision to shoot down was difficult for everyone involved - nobody wanted to see "JJ1" dead!
The security team has also fulfilled a necessary duty! Quite apart from the irresponsible attempts
to identify these people by name and thus make them the target of attacks and death threats.

Applicable law was complied with
As already explained, the decisions of the authorities in Bavaria and Tyrol were based exclusively on technical and scientific principles. According to the unanimous opinion of all wildlife biologists involved, the situation had escalated. It was only a matter of time before a specific accident risk became manifest.

The experts unanimously came to the conclusion that if all trapping efforts had failed, swift action was required and the bear had to be removed from the wild population immediately. The procedure against the bear on June 26th in the Rotwand area was legally coordinated by the StMUGV with the State Ministry of the Interior.
The general security law in the Bavarian State Criminal Law and Ordinance Act (LStVG, Art. 6) entitles and obliges the security authorities to take all necessary measures to avert a danger to public security.

The Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of the Interior came to the unanimous conclusion that the behavior of "JJ1", together with the latest developments in the Rotwand area, represented a considerable danger in terms of security law and required immediate action. The actual action was the task of the factually and locally responsible security authority, which dispatched a security team. The communities Schliersee and Bayrischzell were not involved. As a purely legal safety measure, killing "JJ1" had nothing to do with hunting either!

In the case of strict protection of an animal species, as the bear basically enjoys, nature conservation law provides for a killing permit as an exception if overriding reasons of the common good require such an ultimate approach.
The safety of people is one such common cause. That is why the government of Upper Bavaria permitted the shooting with a general decree of June 23, 2006. Since this general ruling had already been published in the Münchner Merkur on Saturday, June 24th, 2006, it came into force on Sunday, June 25th, 2006 - before "JJ1" was imposed.

The exception permit is also in line with the Bern Convention and the Habitats Directive.
Both legal provisions do not apply directly in Germany, but have been implemented in German law by the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). Both the Bern Convention and the Habitats Directive provide for exceptions to the strict species protection in the interests of public safety, which were implemented in the BNatSchG.

The Munich public prosecutor's office has received over 100 criminal charges.
The public prosecutor's office examined this in detail and came to the conclusion that it would not allow the initiation of an investigation. This confirmed the position of the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of the Interior.

Harrowing hate reactions
The reactions to the death of "JJ1" touched me a lot.
I understand and share the pity many people have for the bear.
But I have no understanding

  • completely uncontrolled abuse ("murderer") and
  • Massive death threats against the clerks concerned at the district office, government and ministries,
    but also to the alpine dairyman and the bear advocate.
  • If you can read on the Internet that a so-called animal lover "throw a party" want, "ifSnap up and the bear killers are finally dead"then it doesn't just leave me speechless.
  • The ministry receives new threats every day - I do not need to explain to you what this means in terms of emotional stress for the employees involved.

Bavaria will set up bear management
The events around "JJ1" have shown us: The people in Bavaria are positive about a return of the bear.
But we also had to recognize: humans and bears have to learn to deal with each other again - otherwise they will fail to live together. Bavaria will therefore set up a bear management system based on the model of Austria and Switzerland.

  • On the basis of the management plans there, we have already drawn up a draft for a "bear concept" for Bavaria.
  • The cornerstones of this concept are, for example:
    • Top priority for human safety - it cannot be ruled out in the future either
      as a last resort to take a risk bear when nothing else helps;
    • active public relations work to inform the population about the situation of bears in Bavaria,
      the measures of bear management and, above all, the prevention of accidents and damage;
    • Avoiding damage to livestock and agricultural crops primarily through prevention.
    • Direct bear damage should be absorbed by a fund or an insurance solution.

Bavaria will closely network its concept with the other Alpine countries.
A first meeting at expert level took place on July 4th in Trento, another one is planned for September in Chur.

The death of "JJ1" is of course very regrettable, but was inevitable as a last resort due to the highly problematic behavior of the animal and the sometimes gross carelessness of people when they encounter the animal.
The colleague Federal Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel (SPD) has also publicly stated:
"I couldn't have made any other decision in this situation."

If those responsible had not made this decision and a person had died,
so an outcry of indignation would rightly have risen across the country.

© Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment, Health and Consumer Protection