Outcry as official orders killing of endangered bear that mauled two men

Officials in Italy have issued an order for an endangered bear to be tracked down and killed after it mauled two men, prompting outrage from animal rights groups.

The animal attacked a father and son hiking on Mount Peller, north of Trento, on Monday, leaving both in hospital.

Bloodstained clothes belonging to the pair, aged 28 and 59, will be tested in the hope they can extract enough DNA to identify the bear.

But while the region’s governor signed what amounts to a death warrant for the mystery mammal, Italy’s environment minister has joined those demanding a stay of execution.

“I trust in being able to optimally reconcile the safeguarding of public safety with the conservation and protection of wild species,” the minister, Sergio Costa, said in a letter to the governor.

The son involved, Christian Misseroni, said the bear suddenly appeared from behind a bush as they walked along the Alpine path in the Dolomites.

“We weren’t prepared – that area is normally peaceful,” he told the New York Times.

“I didn’t have time to react.”

He said the bear rushed toward him while growling, began clawing at him, then landed on top of him as he fell to the ground.

His father, Fabio Misseroni, rushed to his rescue as the animal bit into his leg, prompting it to turn on the older man – whose fibula was fractured in three places.

Christian said he then managed to distract the bear by screaming and waving his hands, and the animal “miraculously” left.

He added: “We’re physically well, but terrorised. Going into the woods from now on just won’t be the same thing.”

Fabio told L’Adige newspaper: “He bit my leg, then my arm, then my other hand. Then he left, miraculously. He could have killed us both.”

Official estimates put the number of bears in the province of Trentino at between 82 and 93.

The endangered species is subject to an EU programme to restore Alpine brown bears in the area.

The order was signed by Trentino governor Maurizio Fugatti, a member of the right-wing nationalist Lega Nord party. He argued the number of bears in the province was “increasingly unsustainable”.

But posters were put up by one animal rights group on Friday demanding a boycott of the region over his order.

And Marco Galaverni, the scientific director of the WWF Italy conservation group, told the New York Times that the animal should not be killed before more was learned about the encounter.

“We still don’t have enough elements to evaluate the bear’s behaviour,” he said.

“Before we euthanise it, we have to better understand what happened.”

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