Animal rights activists fight for bear accused of killing man to be set free

Animal rights activists are calling for the immediate release of a “problematic” bear that injured a father and son and is suspected of killing a 26-year-old man in northern Italy. The activists, who claim JJ4, a 17-year-old female bear, is innocent and must be set free, have opened a protest against the president of the Trentino province, Maurizio Fugatti, who has called for the animal to be put down. The bear is currently being detained in an animal enclosure while a court decides her fate. 

Animal welfare association Leal presented the regional administrative court two forensic reports that purport to clear JJ4 of the killing of Mr Papi. 

According to the DNA tests, the teeth marks found on Papi’s body were compatible with an adult male bear and not those of JJ4.

Declaring that “JJ4 is innocent”, Leal explained that the animal teeth marks, which “have the same value as human fingerprints”, prove that it was a male and not a female that killed Mr Papi. 

They concluded that the science “denies the lies told by Mr Fugatti” that JJ4 is responsible for the killing and should be put down. 

The reports also alleged that the nature of the attack was “a protracted attempt by the bear to distance and dissuade the victim” as opposed to “a deliberate or predatory attack”.

Police maintain that 26-year-old Mr Papi had tried to fight off the bear after a blood-stained branch was found at the scene. 

They said the jogger sustained fatal injuries to his neck, arms and chest during the incident. Initial tests of the corpse identified JJ4 as the killer. 

The female bear, however, who has been separated from her cubs since being captured, is demonstratively responsible for an attack on Fabio Misseroni and his son Christian.

The pair were confronted by JJ4 close to a refuge hut on Monte Peller in June 2020. Misseroni and his son received serious wounds to the legs. 

On the day of Mr Papi’s funeral on April 12, Mr Misseroni told LaPresse news agency: “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I heard the news this morning and I feel really, really sick.”

Along with JJ4’s immediate release from the high-security enclosure in Castellar, Leal is demanding the “immediate resignation” of Fugatti.

Fugatti said he would have had the bear “shot during its capture” had it not been for his order to kill it being suspended by the administrative court. 

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“JJ4 will be killed when the court allows it to happen,” he said last week.

Fugatti had also ordered JJ4 to be put down after the 2020 attack against the two hikers but the order was scrapped by the court amid pressure from animal rights groups and Sergio Costa, the environment minister at the time. 

It was then agreed that the bear would instead be fitted with a radio collar. 

However, the battery for the device ran flat and so JJ4’s location was no longer traceable.

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