Large brown bear spotted on outskirts of Czech city

Brown bear

A brown bear weighing as much as 200 kilogrammes has been spotted on the outskirts of the Moravian city of Zlín. The authorities say the animal could be passing through the area but have warned locals to exercise caution.

The brown bear, Europe’s largest predator, was once common in this part of the world. The animal was exterminated from most of the Czech lands during the 17th and 18th centuries before making something of a comeback.

Since the early 1970s there have been occasional bear sightings in the Beskid Mountains in the very east of the country. However, the animal, which never disappeared in the nearby Slovakia, tends to remain in deep forest, well away from human settlements.

At the end of last week, however, a brown bear was spotted in the outskirts of the Southern Moravian city of Zlín.

Michal Bojda is from Hnutí duha, the Czech branch of the environmental organisation Friends of the Earth, which keeps track of bear movements.

“This year it is the first occurrence of a bear in the Zlín Region. Most years a bear crosses the ridges of the Vizovice Highlands. It sometimes happens that people come across it, sometimes we just have information from a camera trap. Usually it comes and then returns to the Slovak mountains.”

This time the bear was spotted by a jogger in the woods between Kudlov, Pindula and Želechovice nad Dřevnicí, which are on the outskirts of Zlín.

Police spokesperson Pavel Janík said on Sunday that prints discovered by a hunter provided some sense of the size of the animal.

“The presence of the bear was also confirmed by paw prints, which were found near the spot where it was seen. Going by the size of the prints, we believe it could weigh 200 kilogrammes.”

Officer Janík said this was the first time a bear had been reported in or around the city of Zlín in recent memory.

The local authorities said they did not wish to alarm the public but had sent a mass email to residents. Ivo Thurner is the mayor of the district of Želechovice nad Dřevnicí.

Ivo Thurner | Photo: STAN

“We informed the hunters in the district, and they will keep an eye on whether there is any movement. We don’t wish to bring in any other measures, in order not to scare people unnecessarily. We believe that the bear may be only passing through our territory.”

People walking in the area have been urged to exercise caution and make sure they are carrying a charged mobile phone, while dog owners have been told to keep their pets on a leash.

Bears in nearby Slovakia have made international headlines this year. An attack in the town of Liptovský Mikuláš in March left two people in hospital. The same month one person died after falling while being pursued by a bear in the Low Tatras.