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Italy: Bear that killed runner spared death for now

May 26, 2023

A court has suspended the culling order for a bear that fatally attacked a runner in the Italian Alps last month. Animal rights advocates want to see the animal sent to a refuge where it cannot harm people.

A brown bear in a bear park
The bear Jj4 is the sister of Bruno, a bear killed in Bavaria in 2006. This photo shows their mother, Jurka Image: Stefan Arendt/imageBROKER/picture alliance

An administrative court in Italy's Alpine region on Friday delayed for at least a month the euthanization of a bear that killed a 26-year-old man running on a local track in early April.

The court said it wanted to know more about the details of the attack by the 17-year-old female brown bear and review more findings from the autopsy carried out on the man, according to the ANSA news agency.

The suspension of the culling order runs till June 27, but the bear, identified as Jj4, might well be spared until a hearing on December 14 to decide on a proposal by animal rights advocates to send her to a refuge.

The judges ordered the same suspension for another bear, MJ5. That animal, which is yet to be captured, is also facing a cull order after injuring a male dog walker in March.

 Police going through a wood on a slope
Andrea Papi was killed on a mountain path in northern Italy's Trentino areaImage: Provinzregierung Caldes/dpa/picture alliance

Wildlife controversy

The killing of jogger Andrea Papi on April 5 reignited a debate in Italy on an EU-funded program that led to the repopulation of the northern Trentino area with bears from 1999.

Local government data indicates that Trentino had around 100 wild bears in 2021, with numbers increasing by about 10% per year from 2015 onward.

The bear, whose involvement in the attack was established by DNA evidence, was captured on April 18 after a two-week hunt.

She had wounded two people in an attack two years previously, and the provincial governor, Maurizio Fugatti, has said the fatality could have been avoided if she had been euthanized after the first incident.

It is unclear if Jj4, also known as Gaia, might have attacked Papi because cubs were nearby. His family has said they do not want to see the bear killed.

Since the bear's capture, she has been held in a fenced-off game enclosure.

A German sanctuary in Lower Bavaria recently offered to take her in.

 tj/nm (AP, Reuters, dpa)