World (AP)

Rifle slaying of a brown bear in Italy leaves 2 cubs motherless and is decried by locals, minister | AP News

Rifle slaying of a brown bear in Italy leaves 2 cubs motherless and is decried by locals, minister | AP News

ROME (AP) — The slaying of an endangered brown bear near an Italian national park left her two young cubs motherless and sparked outrage on Friday in Italy.

Voicing anger and dismay over the killing of the bear in the mountainous Abruzzo region were Italy’s environment minister and animal rights advocates. Locals, including families with small children, would stop and watch the bear and her cubs on the animal family’s frequent evening excursions through streets of towns near the park.

The National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise described the slain animal, nicknamed Amarena — or Black Cherry in Italian — as one of its most prolific brown bears. Locals affectionately coined the name because cherries and black cherries were among the bear’s favorite foods, Corriere della Sera daily said.

Italian police were investigating the shooting late Thursday night in the town of San Benedetto dei Marsi. The man who shot the bear with a rifle told police the bear was on his property and he felt in danger, the Italian news agency ANSA said.

The marsican brown bear, endemic to central Italy, is considered at elevated risk of extinction. The park says some 60 bears live within the park or in its surrounding areas.

“The killing of a marsican female bear is a grave episode, on which it’s dutiful to shed light as quickly as possible,’’ said Italy’s environment minister, Gilberto Pichetto.

“Our commitment is aimed also at the protection of the bear’s cubs, doing everything possible so that they can remain free,’’ the minister said in a written statement.

The head of World Wildlife Fund’s Italy office, Luciano Di Tizio, called the bear’s slaying a “very grave, unjustifiable crime of nature” and the result of a “constant campaign against wildlife.”

The motherless cubs aren’t yet self-sufficient and thus are at high risk, triggering the search for them in the parklands, he added.

“A self-assured, but completely peaceful bear, Amarena was part of the collective imagination and was the subject of pride in a land that has, in the bear, a symbol” of local nature, Di Tizio said.

Lately in Italy, the theme of bear vs. humans has taken on political connotations and landed in front of the courts. Earlier this year, an administrative court’s ruling spared, for now, the life of a brown bear who fatally attacked a runner on a mountain trail in Italy’s Alpine region.

Local political authorities had issued an order to have the 17-year-old female bear, known as Jj4, euthanized. A court hearing on the bear’s fate is expected in December. Animal rights groups have challenged the order to put down the bear.

The brown marsican bear which was killed on Thursday night is a subspecies that is genetically different from alpine bears.

Italian state TV said Friday that Amarena was the mother of another one of the park’s marsican brown bears that met a violent end. That bear, which was fatally struck by a car earlier this year, earned national fame when it broke into a bakery and munched on cookies.