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Reintroduced bears flourish in Italy, but feed on livestock

The reintroduction of brown bears to Italy's Dolomite Mountains is one of Europe's greatest conservation successes, but locals with dead livestock are not happy.

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It has been hailed as one of Europe’s greatest conservation success stories, but a project to reintroduce brown bears to the Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy is encountering vehement opposition from locals concerned about their livestock.

Local farmers say the animals have developed a worrying taste for their livestock and villagers say they fear it is only a matter of time before a human is attacked.

The project, called Life Ursus, began more than a decade ago, when 10 European brown bears captured in the wild in Slovenia were let loose in the forests and mountains of the picturesque Dolomite range, which is a mecca for skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer. The bears have thrived, and there are now an estimated 50 adult bears and cubs roaming the high mountain meadows and dense forests of the Trentino region, which encompasses much of the Dolomites.

GALLERY Odd furry beasts

There has been growing alarm, however, over the rising number of bear attacks on domestic livestock. Five donkeys have been killed in the last month, two of them belonging to Wanda Moser, the owner of a small farm in the mountain village of Strembo.

She was so incensed by the deaths last month of her pet donkeys, Beppe and Cirillo, that she deposited one of the carcasses outside the nearby headquarters of the Adamello Brenta National Park. She also set up a group called the Anti-Bear Committee and has collected hundreds of signatures calling for the reintroduction project to be canceled and the bears to be relocated. She became even more resolved when a bear killed one of her goats. 

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