A mother bear that caught her leg in a metal trap last summer has been spotted after a long break in Eno, North Karelia. The bear was caught on camera with the trap still on its leg, near where the animal was spotted a year ago with its four cubs.
According to Detective Chief Inspector Harri-Pekka Pohjolainen, the wildlife liaison officer of the Eastern Finland Police, the sighting of the animal does not require any immediate action. Last year, the bear was trapped for several weeks in an attempt to assess its injuries and possibly remove the restraint.
"The animal is still injured, so as a matter of principle it will be euthanized as part of the bear hunt. The situation is different now than it was a year ago, because the small cubs have most likely survived in the world," Pohjolainen told Yle.
The bear hunting season opens on Saturday 20 August. In North Karelia, the season's start is uncertain, as the permits issued in the province have been appealed and are subject to an enforcement ban by the Administrative Court.
"If the season does not start, the case of this bear will have to be reconsidered. Even then, euthanization is the preferred option," Pohjolainen explained.
"It must have gotten used to the metal"
The camera that captured what the Finnish media has referred to as the rautakarhu, or "iron bear", belongs to Marko Kervinen from Heinävaara, who happens to be chair of the local hunting club.
According to Kervinen, the bear appears to be in good condition.
"Its nails look dry, but otherwise there doesn't seem to be any major damage. I think it must have gotten used to the metal," Kervinen said.
He further expressed his sympathy towards the bear, saying that it was a pity the bear is still walking around with the trap on its leg. The most merciful solution, he said, would be to put the bear out of its misery, as the bear population is culled during the hunt anyway.
"But the fact is that finding a specific individual bear in large forests is very difficult. This one was on camera one morning, but since then it has not been seen," Kervinen clarified.
Last year, Finnish police issued orders to put down four bears that had injured themselves after getting caught in traps meant for small predators. The killings received widespread media coverage, prompting backlash and criticism from animal rights groups.
During the uproar, a private rescue group was set up for bears and a call was made for a ban on traps designed for smaller predators.
Under new guidelines adopted to protect large carnivores, solutions other than termination are now possible.