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Spectator USA
Spectator USA
9 Sep 2023
Nicholas Farrell

NextImg:Italy’s dead bear scandal proves the folly of rewilding

A butcher who has killed the most famous wild bear in Italy is now unable to leave his house for fear of being killed himself.

The tragedy calls into question, once again, the wisdom of the ever more fashionable quest by people in cities to rewild the countryside with dangerous animals such as bears and wolves.

There are no two ways about it: these animals wreak havoc.

If those in the city whose closest encounter with a wild animal is a feral pigeon, sewer rat or urban fox, want such animals back in the countryside then they must accept that those who actually live in the countryside have the right to kill them, if necessary.

But as this tragedy shows, city people will lift heaven and earth to deny country people such a right.

The dead bear was called Amarena (Black Cherry). She was the best known and most prolific of the wild bears that inhabit the mountains of the Abruzzo not far from Rome. There are only about sixty of them. She leaves behind two young cubs who were undoubtedly near her when she died. They remain at large without their mother.

Fifty-six-year-old Andrea Leombruni shot her dead with a single bullet from his rifle just before midnight on August 31 after going to investigate an eruption of terrified clucking and squawking from his flock of chickens in their coop.

Confronted in the dead of night by the enormous animal he opened fire. He discovered later that she had killed and eaten thirteen of his chickens.

Let’s not beat about the bush.

Leombruni killed in self-defense, if not in defense of himself then of his chickens. Yet he is now the target of endless death threats by telephone and above all on social media. So too are members of his family, including his eighty-five-year-old mother.

Even where I live, near Ravenna on the Adriatic coast, wolves have come down from the Apennines which are forty miles away because they have been a protected species for decades and their numbers have exploded. My wife Carla saw one on the school run. We hear them howl at night and sometimes we find the dismembered carcasses of fallow dear which only they could have killed. Our donkey Peppa senses their presence and is afraid in her stable. As does Rocco, our Hungarian Vizsla, who sleeps in the barn.

Is anyone seriously saying that I cannot use my Heckler and Koch sub-machine gun to wipe out any pack of wolves I come across at night trying to finish off Peppa and Rocco?

Unfortunately they are a threat — as the tragedy of dead mother bear Amarena quite clearly shows.

The house of the “assassin,” as they call him, in the mountain village of San Benedetto dei Marsi — a fifty-minute drive from the regional capital of L’Aquila — is under twenty-four-hour guard by the carabinieri and friendly neighbors.

Investigating magistrates, of course, have meanwhile placed him under investigation for the “unnecessary or cruel killing of an animal.” Bears, like wolves, are also a protected species which will no doubt make things even worse for him.

Virtue-signalers such as Paride Vitale, who makes eco-friendly perfume from the smells of the forest, wrote in the left-wing daily La Stampa: “Mr. Andrea Leombruni… assassin of Amarena, must pay for her death… Amarena was the symbol of man’s cohabitation with nature.”

Surely the exact opposite is the case: that man and bear should steer well clear of each other?

The eco-activist lobby group Legambiente issued a statement saying: “The killer of the bear Amarena has no justification and no excuse, because he chose to shoot a protected animal at risk of extinction to protect some chickens that generally end up in the pot.”

No justification? Not even self-defense?

Shamefully, even the president of the Abruzzo Region, Marco Marsilio, despite being a member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing Fratelli d’Italia party, has weighed in against poor old Leombruni.

He is “un deliquente” (a criminal), says the regional president, who has committed “a very serious act against the entire region” without “any justification.” Marsilio promises that the region will sue him for damages.

Quite why the regional president felt compelled to make such an accusation, given the lack of evidence to support it, remains unclear.

What is crystal clear is that all these people are completely blind to the real problem here which is something else entirely. Bears like Amarena are getting too close to mankind. And it is a recipe for disaster.

They get filmed strolling nonchalantly around town centers, even breaking into pasticcerie to eat bread and cakes, or in orchards feasting on fruit. The videos go viral and everyone loves them. How sweet! How adorable! But human beings become too tolerant, and the bears too trusting.

Other videos of bears causing mayhem in, yes, chicken coops, and also eating sheep and pets do not have the same appeal.

Amarena was the star of many viral videos from the moment she was filmed bouncing about the flimsy branches of a black cherry tree back in 2016. Hence her name. Indeed, people used to travel to watch her in action.

She became the unofficial mascot of the National Park of the Abruzzo in which she lived. She is thought to have been about nine years old. In 2020, she had four cubs including one who became known as Juan Carrito and even more famous than her as a result of his playful antics. Sadly, he was run over by a car earlier this year and died.

Abruzzo bears such as Amarena are the orso marsicano – which is often called Italy’s native bear. They are a sub-species of the bears in the Italian Alps — the orso bruno europeo — which had become extinct but was reintroduced from eastern Europe in the 1990s. There are now about 100 of those. These “communist” bears up north do often attack people. In April, for instance, a female one — JJ4 as she is called – killed a jogger. She was condemned to death but reprieved and is now awaiting deportation to Romania.

Native bears, down south, are less aggressive.

But they still scare the living day lights out of people. There is at least one video of Amarena in which she terrorizes a village.

The only solution is to keep bears away from human habitation. Naturally, those who look after Italy’s national parks where there are bears know this only too well. But keeping bears away from towns and humans has proved impossible. They keep coming back.

On the evening of August 26, Amarena was filmed, just yards from watching villagers, with her two cubs padding around San Sebastiano dei Marsi, twelve miles from San Benedetto dei Marsi where she would die five days later.

Amarena’s death is tragic. Let’s hope her two cubs who are unable to fend for themselves are captured soon, and looked after until they are old enough to be released back into the wild.

But the tragedy is not the fault of the butcher who killed Amarena. The tragedy is the fault of those who insist we can live cheek by jowl with ferocious wild animals.

This article was originally published on The Spectator’s UK website.