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Italy: Killer bear wins again amid prolonged legal fight

July 15, 2023

A bear that was due to be killed after being blamed for the death of a jogger has been granted another reprieve by an Italian court.

JJ4, the bear that killed a jogger in the Italian Alps
JJ4 was captured alive and temporarily taken to an enclosure near the city of TrentoImage: Trento/PA/ROPI/picture alliance

A bear that killed a jogger in the Alps in April has been given another stay of execution after an Italian court ruled against its euthanization Friday.

The bear named JJ4, but is more commonly known as Gaia, was due to be put down after it attacked and killed a 26-year-old man who was jogging public nature reserve in the Trentino–Alto Adige region of northern Italy in April.

Regional president Maurizio Fugatti ordered the bear shot, but lower courts stopped Fugatti's decree after urgent petitions by animal rights activists. 

On Friday, Rome's administrative court, known as the Council of State, handed Gaia another reprieve from execution.

Spared once again

It's the third time Italian courts have offered the bear, known as JJ4, a reprieve. Authorities said it also attacked two other people in 2020, but not fatally.

In June 2020, JJ4 attacked two hikers on Mount Peller, a father and son. The father was badly injured in the attack.

Fugatti at the time also ordered the bear's killing, only to have the court also revoke his order.

'Disproportionate' cull order 

On Friday the Council of State ruled that while the bear should be kept in captivity for public safety, the cull order was "disproportionate and incompatible" with legislation.

But the reprieve is only until a further appeal is heard in December.

Animal rights protection organization LAV welcomed Friday's court ruling 

"There's no more reason to delay JJ4's transfer to a safe and authorized refuge in Romania," the group's Massimo Vitturi said.

LAV, which has found a Romanian refuge and offered to pay for Gaia to be taken there.

The Rome judges also saved another bear, MJ5, which has yet to be captured and was also facing a cull order after injuring a man in March.

rm/lo (Reuters, dpa)