Bear Trap (Jump Trap)

Silvaplana, 19th century

When a bear stepped between the jaws of a jump or underspring trap [a type of steel-jaw leghold trap], which were fastened on a spring, they slammed shut, holding the animal captive. Traps such as this one were common in Switzerland in the 19th century, today they have long since been banned.

Humans have always had an ambivalent relationship with large predators: as a symbol of power bears have adorned coats of arms, their teeth were worn as amulets and those who succeeded in taming a bear could count on being admired. Wild bears, however, were seen as a threat: in 1904 the last of the animals was shot in the Val Mingèr. Since 2005 brown bears from Italy have repeatedly migrated to Switzerland. New ways of dealing with the old wild animals are being explored.