By Ian Bred, Norfolk Correspondent
A brown bear has been spotted splashing around in the Norfolk Broads – the first sighting in the UK for around 1,500 years.
The news has astonished conservationists and confirms the European brown bear population is booming, following the first sighting of a brown bear in Portugal in over a century.
Tourists enjoying boat trips on the River Bure, near Wroxham, were treated to the extraordinary site of the adult brown bear wandering around in the water, looking for a tasty fish supper.
Photographs have been verified by the British Bear conservationist charity, Bear Necessities.
Spokeswoman Lorraine Fisher, 34, said: “This is the news we have been waiting for. The return of a bear to Britain also shows our conservation efforts are working – clearly this adult female is thriving in the Norfolk Broads area.”
Ms Fisher added: “Even more exciting is her behaviour leads us to believe she may be pregnant, so there could be some cubs coming along soon.”
Residents and visitors to the area are advised not to approach the bear and try to pet or feed it.
“These are wild animals,” explained Norfolk Broads trust official Steve Walsh. “Please keep your dogs and children under control.”
Brown bears last roamed Britain in around 500 AD, although the Romans brought a few over, because they could.
Experts are baffled how the bear got over the channel from mainland Europe. They believe it might have hitched a lift on a container ship into Felixstowe and then roamed through the Suffolk countryside before settling in the Norfolk Broads, where food is plentiful.
The sighting might be exciting, but some are not so happy. Suffolk Gazette angling correspondent Courtney Pike said: “This is bad news for fish.”
Have you seen the Norfolk bear? Send your pictures to email@example.com