Rome – A female bear thought to have killed a jogger in northern Italy is innocent, animal rights activists said on Thursday, adding that teeth marks on the victim proved the aggressor was male.
The 17-year-old bear, identified as JJ4, is being held in a high-security enclosure while a court in the Trentino province, decides whether or not she should be destroyed.
“JJ4 is innocent,” animal welfare association Leal said.
The brown bear is accused of killing Andrea Papi while he was running on a woodland path in the mountainous region near his village on April 5.
The 26-year-old sustained injuries to his neck and head.
Trentino’s president, Maurizio Fugatti, said traces of JJ4 were found at the scene and he ordered her capture, vowing to destroy her.
She was found and taken to an enclosure, separated from her three two-year-old cubs, but activists have issued a legal appeal against the kill order.
Among documents being examined by the court, which is set to rule on May 24, is a forensic report submitted by the region and drawn up by pathologist Mattia Barbareschi, who was present at the autopsy.
He found bite marks “characterised by a distance between them of about 8cm to 8.5cm, which is the typical distance between the canines of an adult bear”.
Measure her teeth
Leal said it had presented the court with another forensic report, done by two veterinary experts who studied Barbareschi’s findings, which claim the distance between the canines was “typical of an adult male”, not a female.
“We have asked the court to order a specialised veterinary doctor to examine the specimen, to measure her teeth,” Leal’s lawyer Aurora Loprete said.
The association also said finding traces of JJ4’s DNA at the scene were not proof she was the killer, questioning if the collection process had been done properly.
Leal said the autopsy also showed it was “a protracted attempt by the bear to distance and dissuade the victim”, rather than “a deliberate or predatory attack”.
Papi’s death launched a debate on the dangers posed by bears, which were reintroduced to the region between 1996 and 2004.
There are around 100 of them now in Trentino, according to the province.
Fugatti had ordered JJ4 to be put down in 2020, after two hikers were attacked, but that order was overturned by a court.
JJ4 was fitted with a radio collar instead so she could be tracked, but the battery on the device ran flat and was not replaced.
Animal rights groups insist bears normally keep their distance from people and it is up to local authorities to ensure that people are kept away from zones where female bears are raising their cubs.
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