Following a successful reintroduction programme, the animals now live in close contact with humans often raiding beehives, attacking livestock and, increasingly, humans too.
On June 10th a man was taken to hospital after being mauled by a bear while out jogging with his dog.
In another incident, Italian cable-car worker Daniele Maturi was attacked last year by a brown bear in Trentino while out foraging for mushrooms near his home. Maturi was lucky to survive the attack, which left him battered, bruised and needing more than 40 stitches.
Incidents like these have now led the governor of Trentino, Ugo Rossi, to ask Italy's Ministry of the Environment to change the current conservation status protecting bears, allowing licences to be granted to kill bears that cause too much damage.
Rossi told La Reppublica that the re-introduction programme which began 16 years ago, “has evolved in ways we weren't expecting. There are no too many bears across a limited area.”
Rossi's proposals have offended animal rights groups and environmentalists. Speaking to The Local, Simone Stefani, leader of the Anti-Vivisection League in Trentino attacked the current rhetoric surrounding the bears.
”The president is contributing to an unjustifiable climate of alarmism and bear-phobia,” said Stefani. “The bear is like any other wild animal, if we know and understand them we can avoid incidents.”
In many ways the bears are victims of their own success. They have been growing in number since 1999 when a project was launched to repopulate the Italian Alps with brown bears from Slovenia.
But the success of the breeding programme has not been matched by a programme to educate the residents of Trentino, many of whom still leave organic waste outside their homes, “practically inviting the bears for dinner,” says Stefani
So do they suffer from a reputation problem?
In America, where bears are more widespread, attacks are common and lead to the death of an average of two people a year. In Europe, encounters between man and bear are much less rarer. In fact, there have been no recorded deaths in Spain, Austria or Italy in the last 100 years.
Seventy-five percent of the diet of brown bears is vegetarian and should a bear decide to polish off the contents of a farmers beehive, or snack on a sheep, the farmer is fully compensated by the government.
But residents of South Tyrol have a long history of bear hunting. The creature was hunted to near extinction by the 1950's. In the 1800's hunters who bagged a bear could claim up to 40 florins, more money than they received for killing wolves.
Italy's Enviroment minister, Gian Luca Galletti, has played down concerns over the bears' future in Trentino. “We need to proceed with caution,” he said, “and avoid emotional reactions that could create negative attitudes towards the bears.”