Protesters demand freedom for captured bear JJ4 in Italy

Bear JJ4, mother of three, who attacked human in Italy captured but not (yet) killed
Female brown bear with cubs, photo: Canva

Dozens of protesters gathered in Milan’s Piazza Cordusio in Italy on Saturday, wearing bear masks and carrying teddy bears and banners to demand “pardon” for a 17-year-old female bear who killed a 26-year-old male runner in the Italian Alps. 

The bear, known as JJ4, was captured by authorities in the Trento province following the incident. The bear was caught in a tube trap filled with fruit while she was with her three cubs. She was sedated and brought to a holding center to wait for the final decision on her life. Authorities left the three cubs on their own in the wild.

Protesters in Milan chanted slogans such as “Free Gaia” (JJ4) and “Freedom for all animals” while holding banners with messages like “Help us free the bears” and “It’s mankind not being in its place, not bears!” 

The demonstration highlights the ongoing tensions surrounding the balance between human activity and wildlife conservation in the region.

The search for the bear began after Andrea Papi’s body was discovered on April 6 in the woods of Peller mountain. Local prosecutors later confirmed that DNA samples from the attack matched those of the bear.

Trento provincial leader Maurizio Fugatti ordered the bear to be killed. However, following appeals by environmental groups, an administrative court suspended the order on April 14. Judges are scheduled to revisit the issue in a hearing on May 11.

The mother of Andrea told local media that she doesn’t blame the bear. “It’s not the fault of the bear. It’s not the fault of my son. Nature took his life.”

Andrea’s death has reignited debates about human-wildlife conflict in an area that has seen a rise in bear populations since 1999, thanks to an EU-funded program. According to data provided by Trento’s provincial authorities, the bear population in the area had reached around 100 animals by 2021.

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