Bears in Italy
After years in which brown bears appeared to be heading for extinction at the hands of hunters, poachers and vengeful farmers, conservationists are celebrating a bear population boom. Giuseppe Rossi, the head of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, said that the Italian public had been deeply shocked two years ago when three bears were found poisoned, including a ten-year-old rare Marsican bear called Bernardo. Dozens of cubs have been spotted after a successful conservation programme. The comeback marks a happy departure from a spate of bear killings in recent years, which ultimately turned public opinion back in favour of the animals.
Trentino Alto Adige is in the heart of ancient bear country. “Orso bruno,” the brown bear, appears 49 times in the local place names. But reference to the bear is far from flattery, and indeed was once the expression of a bitter enmity. Historically documented bounties for the bear and faded photos of celebrated teams of hunters, the bear’s skin at their feet, are witness to the South Tyroleans’ proud victory over this powerful animal. And now, once again, the furry animals are managing to reignite old grudges. According to the Trento provincial government, there have been more than 250 reported incidents of bears attacking livestock, raiding beehives or scaring humans since 1999. “The problems were especially serious this year, when a few bears went into towns,” says Groff. “Jurka,” a female, has particularly worried scientists. She has developed a taste for chickens and tasty garbage, both available mainly near towns and villages. “Many people want us to get rid of this animal,” says Groff, “but Jurka is one of the few females who produces cubs regularly. Within the space of only one year, she’s already been seen with two new cubs.”
There are now said to be between 60 and 100 Marsican Brown Bears in the National Park, with most visitors getting views just north of Pescass?roli where in 2010 a sow was living with two cubs. The key site is from the No.83 c.5km north of Pescass?roli, just north of the turning for Bisegna, where a landslide blocks half the road. Just north of the landslide, across the Sangro, is an area of meadows where bears can be seen feeding. The time from an hour and a half before dusk to dark seems prime, with sightings also reported from up to an hour after dawn.
There are said to be between 100 and 200 Apennine Grey Wolves in Abruzzo National Park, though despite the numbers they are much harder to see than the Brown Bears. Seeing one is a matter of luck with no particular sites within the park widely know, though both the Landslide and Church sites given above can produce sightings.
Three of the world’s rarest bear subspecies, the Marsican brown bear, have been found dead in Italy’s Abruzzo National Park. The dead bears were found in the ‘Acqua Ventilata’ forest, between the towns of Gioia dei Marsi and Pescasseroli, both of which are situated in the Abruzzo National Park. One of the bears was known as Bernardo, and was well known for stealing chickens from local farmers.