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ANIMAL

Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope

Workers at the Engelberg Titlis ski area in central Switzerland witnessed a highly unusual spectacle on Monday morning when a brown bear passed close by.

Brown bear strolls across Swiss ski slope
Bears made a return to Switzerland in 2005 after being absent from the country for over a century. Photo: Nidwalden Police

“The bear was about 100 metres away and stayed in the distance,” Peter Christen, who works on the Gerschnialp ski lift, told regional daily the Nidwalder Zeitung.

“I wasn’t scared: it was more like he was scared of us,” he said.

Read also: Stoat named Switzerland's animal of the year in 2018

Christen and a coworker were collecting poles from the beginners’ ski slope on Gerschnialp when the animal emerged from the forest. “He walked straight over the piste and went back into the woods. We stayed very quiet and watched him,” he told the paper.

“People I know and my colleagues thought I was joking at first when I said I had seen him,” the ski lift worker added.

Authorities believe the bear spotted on Monday is probably an animal known as M29, seen last year in the cantons of Bern and Uri and spotted last week in the area of the Susten Pass that links those two cantons.

M29 is thought to have migrated to Switzerland from Italy in 2016. Photo: Hunting inspectorate of canton Bern

They now believe the bear could now be in the Melch valley in the canton of Obwalden after a forest worker came across his tracks on Tuesday morning.

M29 is thought to have been born in Italy in winter 2013 before migrating to Switzerland in April 2016.

The head of hunting and fisheries for the canton of Nidwalden, Fabian Bieri, said the animal had probably hibernated in the Susten Pass area and was now likely to be on the search for food.

He said M29 was predominantly vegetarian and posed little danger to people or other animals. Bears are only dangerous when they feel cornered or when they are protecting their young, Bieri explained.

“People who are out walking now don’t need to be afraid. Bears hear and smell us long before we see them,” he said. 

But he did advise people not to actively look for bears, saying the animals were best left well alone.

Bears made a return to Switzerland in 2005 after being absent from the country for over a century. M29's appearance in Bern last year was the first time a wild bear had been spotted in the canton in 190 years.

ENVIRONMENT

Spain’s Alicante aims to limit hiking and ban outdoor sports in iconic nature spots

Environmental authorities in the Spanish region of Valencia want to limit hiking and ban rockclimbing and canyoning in popular retreats in Alicante, Valencia and Castellón provinces to preserve these natural habitats and their local species.

Hiking in Valencia might be banned.
Barranc de l'Infern in Alicante province. Photo: Diana TV/Flickr

The Valencian region’s Climate Emergency Department is planning to establish several Special Conservation Zones in popular natural spots in the eastern region, where climbing and canyoning will be prohibited and hiking will be limited.

If the new rule comes into force, it will affect a large portion of the province of Alicante, including popular retreats in nature such as the Barranc de l’Infern river and its hiking route, Puigcampana and Ponoig, one of the best-known climbing spots in the region.

So far, the project is just a proposal, but it has already angered mountain-sport lovers and businesses throughout the region. 

Canyoning and climbing are considered “incompatible” practices with the preservation of natural habitats, according to the first draft of the new decree.

As well as banning these two popular sports, the new rule proposes that hiking in groups of more than 30 people will have to undergo prior evaluation.

Hiking in Puigcampana, Valencia. Image: NH53 / Flickr

The objective of the Department of Climatic Emergency is to extend this new rule and the creation of the ZECs to all the natural spaces included in the Natura 2000 Network within the Valencian Community.

The regulations of the European Union on these sites imply that they must guarantee the preservation of species of fauna and flora. 

For example, in the Special Conservation Zone (known as a ZEC) de la Marina, the decree states that species such as otter, river crab and Cobitis paludica fish will be protected, while the mountains in the centre of Alicante, it’s Bonelli’s eagle, the trumpeter bullfinch and the eagle owl, which must be protected. 

However, according to sources of Las Provincias news site, the European legislation does not prohibit climbing, canyoning and hiking from being carried out within them.

The new proposal has taken many groups by surprise as they were not told of the new proposal beforehand, and are unaware of what the economic and social implications will be.

The President of the Federation of Sports in the Mountains and Climbing in the Community (Muntanya i Escalada de la Comunitat) Carlos Ferrís, pointed out that “the preservation of the environment does not have to be incompatible with these sports” and said that the limitations are not justified by any scientific report.

Hiking in Ponoig, Valencia. Image: Lisa Risager / Flickr

Pedro Carrasco, manager of CV Activa, an association that brings together companies who target active tourism agreed, when he told Las Provincias: “They would have to do a detailed study of each and every place to assess the conditions. It cannot be based on intuition alone”.

These rural tourism businesses do however agree that there can be some limitations on the practice of these sports, but that they shouldn’t be prohibited year round.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The most picturesque day trips in Spain’s Alicante province

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