Bear alert seals off part of Slovene capital

Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:45am EDT
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LJUBLJANA (Reuters Life!) - Slovenian police sealed off an area of Ljubljana on Thursday to hunt down a wild brown bear, the first seen roaming the capital in decades.

The bear was seen on a hill called Roznik, which is only about a mile away from the center of the city and usually full of joggers and hikers, Tone Lesnik, a spokesman of the national Forest Service, told Reuters.

"The police have sealed off the hill and we have five people looking for the bear, believed to be about two years old," he said. If found, the bear will be tranquilized and returned to his natural habitat, he said.

"It is surprising he managed to come to Ljubljana without being hurt by a car," Lesnik said, adding the bear was believed to have come from the forests west of the capital.

Each year about two bear attacks on humans are registered in Slovenia. The last took place last year about 20 miles southeast of Ljubljana, when a female bear with cubs attacked a jogger.

In recent years bears have been moving closer to villages and cities in search of food as the bear population has been rising, Lesnik said.

Slovenia has between 430 and 490 brown bears and the south of the country, covered with thick woods, has the highest density of brown bears in Europe.

Each year some 25 bears die in car and railway accidents. Last week the environment ministry said hunters will be allowed to kill 70 bears this year, down from 75 in 2008, in order to keep the bear population steady.

(Reporting by Marja Novak, Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Paul Casciato)

<p>A cyclist rides past policemen on horses searching for a bear who appeared in Tivoli Park, Ljubljana April 16, 2009. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic</p>