vIt took only a few hours from the signing of the decree to the launch. On Tuesday morning, the president of Trentino province in northern Italy, Maurizio Fugatti, gave the green light to “remove” the problem bear M90, affectionately known by animal rights activists as Sonny. Rome's Agency for Environmental Research and Nature Protection (ISPRA) did not object to the emergency request, as required by law.

Matthias Rüb

Italian, Vatican, Albanian and Maltese political correspondent in Rome.

Back then, it was easy for foresters in a forested province to find a bear. Since the M90 ​​had approached a town or settlement at least twelve times since the summer, and on three occasions it had tracked people while hiking or walking, sometimes coming within ten meters of them, the tracking device was already attached. an adult male bear in mid-September. All attempts to convince the bear of its habits over the past five months during the phase of tracking its movements have failed, he said. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the bear was shot by foresters in charge of the area near the town of Dimaro in Val di Sole.

A press release from the provincial government of Trento said after the shooting: “The M90 ​​was a dangerous animal.” Rome's environment ministry said that shooting in this particular case was justified, but should not be the solution in all cases. to human-to-human conflict Being a (predator) animal: “We all have to work harder to live together peacefully.”

The expected outraged reaction came from animal rights activists. “It was literally an execution,” said Massimo Vitturi of the fairly moderate animal rights group Lega Anti Vivisezione (LAV). More radical animal rights activists, Animalisti Italiani, said M90's death “demands revenge” but gave no specifics about possible revenge for the bear's death. A demonstration by animal rights activists has been announced for this Saturday in Trento, the provincial capital.

Messner: Too many bears

Now Reinhold Messner has also joined the discussion. The South Tyrolean mountaineering legend expressed his belief to the Turin newspaper “La Stampa” that there are currently too many bears in Trentino. “A bear needs large areas,” says Messner. “They become dangerous when they don't have enough territory and get close to population centers.” Messner described it as “normal” for people to be afraid of bears in places. As an alternative to shooting some bears, Messner mentioned moving surplus bears to reserves in Romania: “Either you shoot them if they're dangerous, or you send them to the Carpathians, where there's enough space.”

Protests already took place last May: activists protested for the release of the bear JJ4.  (archive image)

Protests already took place last May: activists protested for the release of the bear JJ4. (archive image)

Image: dpa

Messner complained that the dispute over the treatment of bears and wolves in Italy, especially in the northern provinces of Trentino and South Tyrol, was a “war of words” instead of a reasonable exchange of opinions. He himself has received some “crazy threatening letters” because of his stance on the issue and expects more such letters after his latest statement on the matter. “Bears have disappeared in our mountains for 130 years, because farmers did not tolerate them anymore. The problem is living with predators,” said the 79-year-old extreme climber, author, museum founder and former Green Party MP.

JJ4 now lives in a cage

In Italy, the debate over the coexistence of bears and humans has intensified since the death of a runner last April. A 26-year-old man was attacked and fatally injured by a bear in a forest near Caldes in Val di Sole. Based on bite and scratch marks on the body, authorities determined that the bear JJ4 was responsible for the runner's death. Animal protection organizations tried to prove that the jogger was actually attacked by an adult male bear with a counter report. The provincial government of Trentino approved the shooting of bear JJ4, but various courts overturned the order after complaints from animal welfare organizations. The bear was captured on April 18, 2023 and currently lives in an enclosure in Castelleri, Trentino.

Animal advocates urge people to report wildlife encounters or establish wildlife corridors. instead of reducing the number of bears by shooting them. According to the province of Trentino, the bear population in the region has increased dramatically since the start of the EU bear reintroduction project “Life Ursus” 24 years ago. Instead of the planned 50 bears, there are currently about 100 bears living in the Northern Province.

Trento's center-right coalition, led by provincial president Fugatti, wants to release eight bears a year for the next three years from shooting to regulate the number of bears, including a maximum of two mature females. In surveys, almost nine out of ten residents of the province are in favor of reducing the number of bears in Trentino.