- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2006

From combined dispatches

ROME — Italy will demand that Germany repatriate the body of Bruno, the brown bear who ran amok in Bavaria and was fatally shot by a hunter last week, the Environment Ministry said yesterday.

Environment Minister Alfonso Pecoraro Scanio has complained to Germany and the European Union about German authorization to kill the bear, which had strayed from the safety of the Italian and Austrian Alps into Bavaria.

Bruno wore out his welcome in Bavaria by killing dozens of rabbits, sheep and chickens, stealing honey and — moving ever closer to inhabited areas — raising fears he could threaten people.

He was taken down with a single shot on June 26.

Bavarian authorities reportedly planned to stuff Bruno, the first brown bear to be seen in Bavaria since 1835, and put him in a museum. That final indignity was too much for the Italian minister, a leader of the Green Party.

“It was doubly irresponsible to authorize the killing of a protected species when the European Union tells many developing countries not to kill elephants and other protected animals,” Mr. Pecoraro Scanio said.

The outrage has been rising as Italy prepares to take on Germany in the semifinals of the soccer World Cup today. One Italian Web site called on Italy’s soccer players to “avenge” Bruno’s death by beating Germany.

Bruno is thought to have strolled over from the Trentino region of Italy, where his mother had been fed by humans and therefore had not taught him to avoid contact with people.

Brown bears have been reintroduced into the Austrian and Italian Alps in recent decades, and about 30 are thought to be in Austria alone.

A team of Finnish bear hunters and five elk hounds with Global Positioning System finders strapped to their backs failed to capture the elusive 6-foot brown bear, the London Independent reported.

Bruno became a fugitive hero, his legend growing as his forays into populated areas became more brazen. Once, he sauntered into an Alpine lakeside resort and sat down in front of the police station before vanishing into the woods again.

Local entrepreneurs printed T-shirts bearing the legends “You’ll Never Get Me” and “Bruno World Tour 2006.”

Bruno’s killing was so unpopular in Germany that the Bavarian authorities received anonymous death threats against the hunters and are refusing to identify them, the Times of London reported.

“There was no other solution,” Anton Steixner, an official from the Austrian state of Tyrol, told the Associated Press. “Even animal rights activists should understand that this bear killed sheep and tore into rabbits purely for pleasure,” Mr. Steixner said. “Rabbits are also deserving of sympathy.”

But Tony Scherer, mayor of Schliersee, the Bavarian town near Spitzingsee lake, where Bruno was killed, disagreed. “The death penalty has been abolished,” Mr. Scherer said. “This bear didn’t do anything bad.”

The Italian minister was unavailable to comment yesterday, but an official at his ministry confirmed he would issue a formal request for Germany to ship the bear’s 220-pound body to Italy.

If Germany refuses the Italian minister’s request, plans have been made for Bruno to be stuffed and put on display in Munich’s Museum of Man and Nature, a German official said.

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