From: Marta Falconi, Associated Press
Published August 25, 2006 12:00 AM

Italians Keep Tabs on Dead Bear's Mother

ROME — Italian officials said Thursday that they will track a mother bear by satellite to keep her out of the trouble that led to her son's untimely death at the hands of hunters in Germany and caused an international uproar.

Jurka, an 8-year-old brown bear, was fitted with a tracking collar Wednesday by forestry officials who now can monitor her movements around the clock.

Her 2-year-old son Bruno was slain in Germany in June, ending a monthlong odyssey that saw him wandering across the two countries' border, killing sheep and rabbits and breaking into beehives.

Fearing he would one day target humans, officials in the southern German state of Bavaria gave hunters permission to shoot Bruno, the first wild bear seen in German in 170 years, after efforts to capture him alive failed.

The killing drew widespread condemnation and raised concerns about the safety of other bears in a project to reintroduce the predators into northern Italy. There are currently 20 bears in the region.

Italy formally protested the killing of Bruno, saying the bear should have been shot with tranquilizers and returned to Italy. It also demanded the body of the animal, but Bavarian officials have refused to return it.

Some 500 people gathered this month in the southern German village of Schliersee, where Bruno was killed, to mourn the bear and to protest his slaying.

Many hotel and restaurant owners in Schliersee have complained of losing hundreds of clients during the normally busy summer season, after tourists decided not to take vacations there.

Bavarian Environment Ministry spokesman Stephan Niederleitner said Bruno was being examined scientifically, but declined to say where. As of the end of July, Bruno was being examined at the University of Munich's Institute for Animal Pathology.

Niederleitner added that authorities were considering putting Bruno on display in a museum.

Meanwhile, Italian officials have become particularly worried about Jurka, saying she shows signs of sharing her son's wanderlust and curiosity about humans.

"Jurka's attitude is quite unusual, as bears are normally suspicious of humans," Claudio Groff, a spokesman for forest officials in the northern Italian city of Trento, said by telephone Thursday.

Jurka appears particularly trusting and has regularly popped out of the woods to make appearances in inhabited areas in search of food, causing only limited damage but scaring residents.

The satellite collar enables forestry officials to move in if the bear gets too close to inhabited areas, and shoot her with rubber bullets.

"We will try to scare her and dissuade her," Groff said. "The aim is to try to modify the bear's behavior to see if it can continue living among us. We're also trying not to have to intervene drastically as happened with its cub."

Source: Associated Press

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