Brown bear that killed Italian runner is captured, her 3 cubs freed

Authorities in northern Italy captured a bear that fatally mauled a runner and became the focus of a battle over what to do with Italy’s growing Alpine brown bear population. The animals were once nearly extinct but their numbers have rebounded thanks to a European Union-funded project.

Officials in Trento announced Tuesday that the female bear, identified as Jj4, had been captured overnight in a tube trap, baited by fresh fruit. She was sedated and taken to a holding center pending a final decision on her fate. Her three cubs, who are 2 years old and self-sufficient, were with her at the time but were freed unharmed.

Andrea Papi, 26, was killed by Jj4 while out on a mountain training run between April 5-6. After identifying Jj4 as his killer through her DNA, Trento provincial authorities ordered her euthanized, but animal rights groups appealed to an administrative court, which suspended the order.

The bear wears a GPS radio collar that tracks its movements, but the monitoring page for the animal said there was a faulty signal from its collar before the fatal attack on Papi, Reuters reported.

“The removal of Jj4 now ensures greater peace of mind and security in the area,” officials said in a statement along with a photo of the bear’s capture.

The capture of Jj4 in Val Meledrio by the Trentino Forest Service.

Province of Trentino

Jj4 is the same Alpine brown bear that injured a father and son out walking in the region in 2020. Then too, Trento provincial authorities ordered her killed but a court blocked the move.

At a news conference Tuesday, Trento’s provincial president, Maurizio Fugatti, expressed anger that Papi’s death could have been avoided if Jj4 had been euthanized after her first dangerous encounter with humans.

He denounced as “ideological” the arguments by animal rights groups that have opposed selective euthanasia for known aggressive bears like Jj4, and said the province would have preferred to have euthanized her on the spot and still hopes to pending a final court ruling.

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.

The Life Ursus project began in 1999 with the introduction of three male and six female bears in the Trento forests, aiming to rebuild the population to 40-60 bears over a few decades. But the population has rebounded to more than 100 identified bears, according to Italian news reports, and is increasingly having encounters with the human population.

Fugatti is seeking the transfer of some 60 “excess” bears from the Trento region and said he plans to convene a working group to discuss the next steps.

In March, a man was attacked by a bear in the same region, launching a debate on the dangers posed by the animals.

A coalition of animal rights groups, including the International Organization of Animal Protection, or OIPA, demanded Trento authorities “rigorously” respect the court suspension of the kill order and vowed to defend Jj4 and her cubs “via all available legal means.”

Papi’s family had said they didn’t want the bear culled.

Annamaria Procacci, a former ecologist deputy who now works with the animal welfare group ENPA, denounced the lack of precautions taken by local officials. Bears normally kept their distance from people, she argued.

The local authority had to ensure that people were kept away from zones where female bears were raising their cubs, she added.

In 2020, a brown bear was caught on camera climbing onto a balcony of an apartment building in the northern Italian city of Calliano.

European brown bear foraging among rocks on mountain slope.
A European brown bear (Ursus arctos arctos) foraging among rocks on a mountain slope in Italy.

Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

AFP contributed to this report.

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