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The Independent Online


Italy's tiny population of brown bears has suffered a double whammy this month.

First, the bear known as M14 was run over and killed by an SUV in the Italian Alps. And now his brother, M13, has been shot dead by rangers on the Swiss side of the border, prompting protests from the World Wide Fund for Nature and 10,000 animal lovers on a dedicated Facebook page.

Petitions prior to M13's demise had insisted that the bear was no danger to the public after the young animal broke a window and crawled into an unoccupied cabin near the mountain town of Poschiavo in Switzerland close to the Italian border last November.

But following the incident, Swiss mountain rangers tagged the animal, which was often seen on both the Italian and Swiss sides of mountain, with an electronic tracking device. And on Tuesday this week, they shot and killed it.

The authorities claimed the animal's "lack of inhibition when near inhabited areas" represented a danger, according to Ansa news agency.

"I hope one of the Bern bears escapes and runs amok in the criminal court house... to deal a real blow of justice," said one fan on Facebook.

The social-network page's banner with a picture of M13 in a tree has been replaced with a bloody paw print.

If careless SUV drivers and overzealous rangers weren't enough of a threat, Italy's brown bear population, which is thought to number less than 50 in total, is also threatened by some northern Italians' liking for bear stew.