Brown bear populations rebounded thanks to an EU-funded project, but they are now being culled by local authorities.
On Tuesday, authorities in northern Italy killed a brown bear deemed dangerous to humans, sparking protests from animal rights activists and the scrutiny of Italy’s environment minister.
Named M90, the animal was killed by members of the forestry corps in the Sole Valley in the eastern Alps, according to an official statement.
The bear exhibited “excessive confidence and frequentation of urban areas,’’ having followed people on multiple occasions, most recently following a pair of hikers for more than half a kilometre on a forested road, the province said.
Italy’s Ispra environmental institute confirmed the necessity of “removing the bear M90 as soon as possible,” the province added.
The bear was identified by its radio collar and ear markings.
Animal rights groups protest culling of brown bear in Italy
Environmental groups protested the speed of the order and execution, which did not allow them time to seek a stay.
They have announced a protest on Saturday in the provincial capital, Trento.
The timing of the decree and the execution “make us think that while the order was being signed, the rifles were already smoking,’’ said Massimo Vitturi of the LAV animal rights group.
Italy’s environmental minister, Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, questioned whether the culling was the best option, saying in a statement that “it can’t be the only alternative.”
He called for efforts “to guarantee a peaceful cohabitation in the territory.”
Alpine brown bears population booming after repopulation project
Authorities in the province have been battling with animal rights activists over what to do with the growing Alpine brown bear population. The species was once nearly extinct but has rebounded thanks to a European Union-funded project.
Last spring, authorities captured a 17-year-old female, identified as JJ4, in the Brenta national park. She had killed a runner about two weeks earlier and had injured a father and son out walking in the region in 2020.
Animal rights activists have been fighting to have her transferred to Romania. At the same time, an Italian administrative court has sought clarification on the province’s culling order from the European Court of Justice.
In the meantime, the carcasses of two other bears, M62 and MJ5, have been found, one near the Molveno Lake in April and one in Bresimo in the Val di Non in October.
Two of JJ4’s siblings were killed when they wandered into neighbouring Switzerland in 2008 and nearby Germany in 2005.
JJ4 was born to two bears brought to Italy from Slovenia two decades ago as part of an EU-funded program to repopulate the brown bear population that had been dwindling to the point of near extinction.
Her parents, Joze and Jurka, were introduced in 2000 and 2001 respectively and account for the “JJ” initials of her name and those of her siblings.