ROME — The killing of an endangered brown bear near an Italian national park left its two young cubs motherless and sparked outrage in Italy on Friday.
Italy’s environment minister and animal rights activists have expressed anger and dismay at the bear slaughter in the mountainous region of Abruzzo. Locals, including families with young children, would stop and watch the bear and her cubs during the animal family’s frequent nocturnal excursions through the streets of towns near the park.
The Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park described the slain animal, nicknamed Amarena – or black cherry in Italian – as one of its most prolific brown bears. Locals affectionately coined the name because cherries and black cherries were among the bear’s favorite foods, Corriere della Sera daily said.
Italian police were investigating the shooting that occurred on Thursday evening in the town of San Benedetto dei Marsi. The man who shot the bear with a rifle told police the bear was on his property and felt unsafe, Italian news agency ANSA reported.
The Marsican brown bear, endemic to central Italy, is considered to be at high risk of extinction. The park claims that around 60 bears live in or around the park.
“The murder of a Marsican bear is a serious episode on which it is our duty to shed light as quickly as possible,” said Italian Environment Minister Gilberto Pichetto.
“Our commitment also aims to protect bear cubs, doing everything we can to keep them free,” the minister said in a written statement.
The head of the World Wide Fund for Nature’s Italian office, Luciano Di Tizio, called the bear’s killing a “very serious and unjustifiable crime against nature” and the result of a “constant campaign against wildlife”.
Orphaned cubs are not yet self-sufficient and therefore at high risk, triggering their search in parks, he added.
“A self-confident but totally peaceful bear, Amarena was part of the collective imagination and the pride of a land that has, in the bear, a symbol” of local nature, Di Tizio said.
Lately in Italy, the theme of bears against humans has taken on political overtones and landed in the courts. Earlier this year, an administrative court ruling spared the life of a brown bear that fatally attacked a runner on a mountain trail in Italy’s Alpine region.
Local political authorities had ordered the euthanasia of the 17-year-old female bear, known as Jj4. A court hearing on the fate of the bear is expected in December. Animal rights groups have challenged the order to put down the bear.
The brown Marsican bear killed on Thursday evening is a genetically different subspecies from the alpine bears.
Italian national television said on Friday that Amarena was the mother of another Marsican brown bear in the park who met a violent end. This bear, who was fatally hit by a car earlier this year, gained national fame by breaking into a bakery and eating cookies.