Update 11/09/2014: Daniza is dead. In a botched attempt to capture her after a month of monitoring and unsuccessful attempts, forest rangers came close enough to shoot the bear with an anaesthetic last night. However, Daniza died as the result of the intervention. It has been reported in national newspapers that the forestry police has opened an investigation into the unnecessary killing of an animal. Daniza’s cubs have been left to roam free and many experts say that they have a good chance to survive the winter without the mother. Such a sad outcome only proves once again that not only the controversial capture was mismanaged but the whole re-introduction project Life Ursus has not been successful in terms of public acceptance. It is clear that the people of Trentino need to learn how to co-exist with the bears.
“If you go down to the woods today/ You’re sure of a big surprise”. That’s how the famous song goes and a surprise it was for Daniele Maturi, who went mushroom picking near a small village of Madonna di Campiglio in the Dolomites, Trentino, and bumped into a female bear with two cubs. The man says he saw the animals 30 metres away and hid behind a tree to watch them. The mamma-bear spotted the observer and attacked him. The man managed to escape with a few light scratches but, as I write this, the local authorities are out to get what they called the “dangerous animal”. The bear has a radio collar, so, she has been located quickly enough. What is going to happen next? The authorities said that killing the bear is a viable option.
Daniza is the name of the protective mamma. In 2000 she was released as part of the Life Ursus project for re-introduction of brown bears in Trentino. A radio collar was attached to keep an eye on Daniza as she has eaten a few cows and visited pastures in the area where she lived.
I have to add that many people in Trentino are not enjoying the idea of sharing the mountains with wild bears. The issue has become political as the Northern League party (yes, the one that is known for its resentment towards Southern Italy, racist remarks and a tough stance on immigration from Muslim countries) called for extermination of all brown bears in the region. Many farmers, despite healthy payouts from the government for every domestic animal killed by bears, seem to support the demand. So, my guess is Daniza has a very little chance.
Many Italians are demanding to stop the imminent killing of the innocent mamma-bear who only wanted to protect her babies. They are raging on Twitter with hashtags #iostocondaniza and #daniza. A Facebook Io Sto Con Daniza (“I am with Daniza”) has received over 1000 likes in the last two hours.
Next time you are hiking in Trentino, remember that encounters with bears are not unusual in these parts of Italy. By nature bears are shy and tend to stay away from humans. As you walk make sure you rustle leaves, break dry twigs to alert the animals around and give them a chance to escape. However, if you happen to see a bear, especially with cubs, DO NOT APPROACH and DO NOT HIDE to watch them. Just walk away slowly and quietly. Do not put your and bear’s life in danger!
Here is a beautiful video of Daniza feeding her two cubs filmed two years ago.
Update 28/08/2014: Daniza the bear is still roaming free despite many efforts by local authorities to capture her. Meanwhile, the campaign against putting Daniza in an enclosed area continues on social media channels. You can sign a petition against bear’s capture here. Run, Daniza, run!
Update 20/08/2014: all attempts to capture Daniza the bear have failed. She continues to ignore traps set up for her with meat and honey and keeps moving covering up to 50 km per day. The authorities have emphasized that Daniza cannot be left in the wild as she is classified as a “confident bear” as she is not afraid to approach areas populated and frequented by humans, which may create problems in the future. They said that the bear will not be killed but captured and homed in a fenced space. The cubs will be left free as they are big enough to survive.