In a controversial move, forestry corps personnel in northern Italy have killed a brown bear that was deemed dangerous to humans by local authorities. The decision has sparked protests from animal rights activists and caught the attention of Italy's environment minister.
The brown bear, known as M90, was killed on the orders of Trento provincial president, Maurizio Fugatti, in the Sole Valley in the eastern Alps. According to a statement released by the province, the bear displayed 'excessive confidence and frequentation of urban areas.' This behavior included following people on multiple occasions, with the latest incident involving a pair of hikers who were trailed for over half a kilometer on a forested road.
The Ispra environmental institute confirmed the necessity of removing M90 as soon as possible, based on the bear's identification through its radio collar and ear markings. However, environmental groups have expressed their discontent over the speed at which the decision was made and executed, as it did not allow them enough time to seek a stay. Consequently, they have announced a protest set to take place on Saturday in Trento, the provincial capital.
Italy's environment minister, Gilberto Pichetto Fratin, has also raised concerns about the bear's culling, questioning whether it was the best option. In a statement, he stated that culling 'can't be the only alternative' and called for efforts to find ways to ensure peaceful cohabitation between humans and bears in the territory.
The province authorities have been facing a longstanding struggle with animal rights activists on how to manage the growing Alpine brown bear population. These bears were once on the brink of extinction but have made a remarkable recovery thanks to a European Union-funded project.
Last spring, another brown bear named JJ4, a 17-year-old female, was captured in Brenta national park. JJ4 had killed a runner two weeks prior and had also injured a father and son in the region in 2020. Animal rights activists have been fighting for her transfer to Romania, while an Italian administrative court has sought clarification from the European Court of Justice regarding the province's culling order.
In addition to these incidents, the carcasses of two other bears, M62 and MJ5, have been discovered. One was found near Molveno Lake in April, while the other was found in Bresimo in the Val di Non in October. Moreover, in 2008 and 2005, two of JJ4's siblings were killed when they strayed into neighboring Switzerland and Germany, respectively.
JJ4's parents were brought to Italy from Slovenia two decades ago as part of an EU-funded program to repopulate the dwindling brown bear population. Their introduction in 2000 and 2001 is reflected in the initials 'Jj' shared by JJ4 and her siblings.
The decision to kill the brown bear M90 has ignited a fierce debate between those advocating for the protection of animals and those concerned with human safety. Strikes, protests, and legal battles have ensued, highlighting the complexities of managing the coexistence between humans and wildlife in a delicate ecosystem. As the discussions continue, finding viable solutions for peaceful cohabitation remains a critical challenge for the authorities and environmental stakeholders involved.