Giant brown bear rampages through streets of Italian town during festival and another stalks a nursery school as grieving father of jogger mauled to death begs officials to 'get rid of them'

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  • Carlo Papi’s son Andrea, 26, was mauled to death by a bear while trail running

A grieving father whose son was killed by a bear has called for tougher action as a row over culling in Italy intensified following three sightings in built up areas in a week.

Carlo Papi’s son Andrea, 26, was mauled to death by a bear last year while out jogging along a country trail in an area where brown bears are allowed to roam free.

He was targeted by a 17-year-old brown bear female identified as JJ4 which had also been involved in another attack in 2020 and was initially supposed to have been put down following the fatality but this was suspended.

Tough laws prevent bears being culled as they are a protected species but now after the fresh sightings – including the one just yards from a nursery school – there have been demands to toughen controls. 

Mr Papi said: ‘We have been abandoned, they said they would sort this problem out and nothing has been done. My son died a year ago and nothing has changed.

A bear was caught roaming through the streets of a town in the Dolomites
A bear was caught roaming through the streets of a town in the Dolomites

Footage shows a bear sighting in the village of Male in the Sole Valley near Trento, northeast Italy, early Sunday morning

Carlo Papi's son Andrea, 26, was mauled to death by a bear last year while out jogging along a country trail in an area where brown bears are allowed to roam free

Carlo Papi’s son Andrea, 26, was mauled to death by a bear last year while out jogging along a country trail in an area where brown bears are allowed to roam free

Andrea was targeted by a 17-year-old brown bear female identified as JJ4 which had also been involved in another attack in 2020

Andrea was targeted by a 17-year-old brown bear female identified as JJ4 which had also been involved in another attack in 2020

‘It’s now got to the point where we are just not safe in the woods near our homes but also in our own homes as well.

‘Three sightings in less than a week and one just a few metres from a nursery school. What are we waiting for? Bears are now more protected than humans it seems.

‘I think the time has come to get rid of them, I’m not saying kill them all but they need to be removed from the area and put in a zoo or safari park.’

Around 100 bears are thought to be in the Trentino region of northern Italy after they were reintroduced in the late 1990s but officials estimate the figure may be even higher.

Local councillor Claudio Cia, shared footage of the latest sightings with MailOnline, one showed a bear caught walking through the village of Male in the Sole Valley near Trento, northeast Italy, early Sunday morning.

It was spotted just as an end of term school party wrapped up and people were wandering home after Italy’s Euro 2024 match against Albania.

Filmed from the safety of a car it shows the bear poking its nose through open gates and then breaking into a sprint before disappearing down a side road.

A bear is seen on a dual carriageway near the town
A bear is seen on a dual carriageway near the town

The animal is caught in the motorists’ headlights and then looks towards them before slowly walking off along the road

Twenty-four hours later another bear, thought to be the same one, is seen on a dual carriageway on the outskirts of the town, its head poking over a crash barrier.

The animal is caught in the motorists’ headlights and then looks towards them before slowly walking off along the road, in the direction of the town of Commezzadura. 

Local authorities are now calling for urgent intervention ‘to prevent painful and dramatic events from occurring in the future’, an apparent reference to the death of Andrea Papi.

Although bear attacks are relatively rare, officials said following Papi’s death – the first fatality in several years – that they are on the rise.

Councillor Cia said: ‘We know from a census of bears there are around 100 officially but we believe the number is much higher, possibly at least half that again.

‘These increased sightings have now become almost daily and the bears ae getting bolder and bolder, residents are becoming concerned for their safety and it is also dangerous for the animal.

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Bear ‘mauls trail runner, 26, to death’ in Italy in rare attack just a month after another hiker barely escaped with his life

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‘The one that was sighted early on Sunday was seen just after a party finished, there were stalls still set up and people in the streets but thankfully no one was attacked.

‘The problem is outside its natural habitat, bears are lethal, outsiders think of them as cute and cuddly with soft fur but for us they are predators, and we need to deal with them.’

Mr Cia added: ‘When they were introduced as part of a rewilding scheme 25 years ago everyone was happy but now locals have had enough, they are fed up.

‘The bears attack sheep, goats, and other animals, farmers livelihoods are being affected.

‘They are wandering more and more into urban areas looking for food because they have nothing to eat in their natural habitat.

‘What we are saying is for a humane culling each year of a select few but every time we ask for this there is uproar and its always people who live in towns.

‘They see bears as sweet, cuddly creatures like a cartoon character, but the reality is very different.

The cordoned off woodland area near the town of Caldes after the death of Andrea Papi

The cordoned off woodland area near the town of Caldes after the death of Andrea Papi 

‘What makes me angry as well is when we cull deer, and we do around 7,000 a year, there is never any outcry but when we mention bears it’s the end of the world.

‘We have elevated bears to the same level as humans and made humans monsters just because we want to defend ourselves and control the bear population.’

Michela Vittoria Brambilla, president of the Italian League for the Defence of Animals and the Environment, said: ‘People like councillor Cia need to learn that they have to live alongside bears.

‘The bear is a protected species and it should not be harmed, it seems to me that as far as Councillor Cia is concerned the only good bear is a dead bear.

‘Bears are not like deer, bears are a species that are facing extinction so to compare the potential culling of bears with that of deer is ridiculous, he needs to understand the difference.’

Meanwhile campaign group Hundred Percent Animalists staged a protest in Verona, declaring that ‘the summer offensive in defence of bears and wolves threatened with extermination has begun.’