Bear caught after nine-month 'crime spree' stealing honey

Bear is recaptured after scaling 13ft electrified fence to escape Italian enclosure and embarking on nine-month ‘crime spree’ stealing honey

  • Papillon the bear, aged 3, escaped from his Trento enclosure last summer 
  • The bear went rogue and raided bee hives, farms, and even approached humans 
  • He has finally been caught by hunters in the mountains of northern of Italy
  • Animal rights groups expressed their fury at the bear’s ‘cruel’ recapture

A bear who escaped from an enclosure in the Italian Alps and led hunters on a nine-month chase across the country as he committed a catalogue of ‘crimes’ has been recaptured.  

Three-year-old Papillon – given the name in a nod to the 1973 prison break film – made his miraculous escape from a Trento enclosure last summer by scaling over a 13ft fence charged with 7,000 volts.  

The 23-stone bear spent the following nine months on the run as he continued to evade hunters. 

He damaged bee hives while hunting for honey, shook a caravan with two shepherds inside while trying to empty the bin attached to it, and attacked a herd of cows – only to be scared off by sheep dogs, The Times reported.

WWF Italy pointed out that the bear is a protected species in Italy and described his recapture as a ‘defeat for us all’

In July last year Maurizio Fugatti, president of Trentino, issued an order to kill Papillion after it was seen close to inhabited areas. 

At the time he said:  ‘The fact that the bear managed to climb over an electric fence with seven wires at 7,000 volts demonstrates that this specimen is dangerous and a public safety problem.’

But the bear continued to escape capture and after pausing for his winter hibernation, lumbered 350-miles around the northern end of Lake Garda, even managing to cross a motorway. 

Papillon recently found he had the mountains to himself amid Italy’s lockdown and was filmed rolling around in snow on a sunny day.

Just weeks later though hunters on his trail finally caught up and lured the bear into a large trap near Trione this week.

 Papillon continued to evade hunters and lumbered 350-miles around the northern end of Lake Garda, even managing to cross a motorway

They transported the bear back to the enclosure he originally escaped from, where he will be kept company with a female called DJ3, The Telegraph said. 

Before his escape Papillon had been part of a programme to reintroduce brown bears into the Alps but was rounded up after feasting on donkey and sheep. 

The news he has been caught has sparked outrage from animal rights protesters. 

Italian animal welfare group LAV said it would sue the local authority in a bid to release the bear. 

A spokesman said: ‘He was never a threat to man and will now be given a life sentence. (The bear) has shown exceptional talent for adapting and surviving.’

Farmers’ group Coldiretti said mountain dwellers had felt ‘vulnerable before an animal whose aggression was scientifically proven’

The World Wildlife Fund agreed, and said: ‘His capture is a defeat for us all, it is terrible, sad news for nature conservation and for this country.’

Others expressed relief at Papillon’s capture. 

Farmers’ group Coldiretti said mountain dwellers had felt ‘vulnerable before an animal whose aggression was scientifically proven’.   

Sergio Costa, the environment minister, expressed dissatisfaction at the bear’s recapture. He said he was contacting national parks in Europe in the hope they would be willing hosting the bear.

After years of hunting during which the brown bear population dwindled to just four, the animal was reintroduced into northern Italy in 2000 as part of an EU-funded project called Life Ursus. 

Ten bears were transported from Slovenia and the population now stands at around 50. 

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