'Shoot-to-kill’ bear captured alive after 10 months on the loose in Italy

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Deutsche Welle | Europe

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A wild bear that was on the run for 10 months in northern Italy has been captured. The animal had been the target of a controversial "shoot-to-kill" policy after he killed several farm animals.

A bear that was loose in northern Italy for 10 months after making a daring escape from a nature park has been captured, park rangers announced Wednesday, bringing an end to a saga that had captivated the region.

The bear, known as M49, had escaped into the wild last July. He broke out of the nature park where he was living by climbing over four fences, including one that was charged with high-voltage electricity.

M49 was recaptured in a pipe trap late Tuesday night, Italian media reported.

He was then transported to the nature park from which he had originally escaped, a statement from the province of Trento said, where he was put in a fenced off area that contains a female bear. He is "in good physical condition," the statement said. 

President orders 'shoot to kill'

The 167-kilogram (369-pound) animal was spotted several times over the past months, both in the wild and near human settlements. He killed several farm animals during that time.

Upon hearing the news of his capture, the farmers association Coldirett said it was breathing "a sigh of relief," while the Italian branch of the World Wildlife Federation said it was "terrible and sad news for nature conservation in our country."

M49 had been the target of a shoot-to-kill orders imposed by Trento Province President Maurizio Fugatti should the bear come near humans. 

But the move was heavily criticized and authorities later said they would prioritize capturing him alive, with shooting reserved as "a last resort," local media reported. 

Italian Environment Minster Sergio Costa said Italy was now looking for another European country to take in M49.

"We are sounding out European parks, contacting countries where this type of bear could live well and without risks, also activating diplomatic channels," he said. "The goal is to give this bear, which we love, the best home possible."

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