The brown bear, named Daniza, was reportedly nursing her cubs when she attacked a man, Daniele Maturi, who was foraging for mushrooms in the woods near Pinzolo, in the province of Trentino, northern Italy. Fortuately Maturi survived, suffering bites and scratches to his wrist, leg, knee and back.
Fears were raised for the security of Trentino’s population and the bear’s capture was ordered by local authorities.
But after three days of searching and laying down traps laced with meat, a team of specialists has yet been unable to capture Daniza who moves around 50km a day, La Repubblica reported.
In a letter sent to the Autonomous Province of Trento on Thursday, the environment minister said: “The security of the inhabitants of Trentino is a primary concern that must be protected. But at the same time the important experiment of the current restocking program of bears in Trentino must not be thwarted. The bear Daniza must be in a position where she can longer attack people.”
However, this security risk has been denied by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which has declared itself to be against the capture of the animal.
In a statement, WWF said: “We think that the decision to capture Daniza the bear, [who is] 'guilty' of having defended her cubs, is a solution and a way to think more thoroughly and carefully, and yet for us, it is not the right solution.”
The statement added that the WWF would continue to monitor the animal after the event as well as ensure that the bear’s cubs would grow to become adults.
Speaking to The Local on Friday, Massimiliano Rocco, head of the Species Programme at WWF Italy, said that Daniza would not be killed.
“The province has confirmed that if she is captured she won’t be killed. She will be put in captivity in a forested area for a few months,” Rocco told The Local.
Rocco also denied that there was a security risk. “What happened the other day is exceptional. It happened because a mushroom forager met a family of bears which was the cause. But there is no real danger,” he said.
Rocco added that it was “very possible” for people to live alongside bears as long as they take necessary precautions.
Meanwhile, animal lovers and environmentalists have united under the hashtag #iostocondaniza in a social media campaign to stop Italian authorities capturing the bear.
On a Facebook page created by the animal rights website Youanimal.it, several animal lovers have posted “selfies” of their pets and toy animals with a sign reading “#iostocondaniza” (I support Daniza).
Even politicians have rallied in support for the bear, including Filippo Degasperi, a councillor in Trentino for the Five Star Movement (M5S) who asked for a withdrawal of the order for the bear's capture in a post on party leader Beppe Grillo’s blog.
Daniza is one of around 40 or 50 brown bears living in the Trentino province after around ten were placed there part of the LIFE-Ursus project between 1999 and 2001.