The mother is dead, her cubs can only survive a few days alone: ​​With the end of the summer holidays in Italy, the fate of a brown bear family from a national park in Abruzzo is causing a nationwide uproar. The mother bear was shot dead by a hunter who reportedly felt threatened on his property in the central Italian village of San Benedetto dei Marsi. A big search is now underway for the bear cubs, which are only four or five months old: they cannot yet get through alone in the wild.

The mother, named Amarena – meaning black cherry, a word more commonly known in Germany from ice cream parlors – was a minor celebrity in the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo Lazio e Molise and beyond. For years she has been strolling through the villages, also with her youngest offspring. There are nice little videos of the excursions, which have been clicked hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube. According to the park administration, the bear has never become a danger to humans over the years.

Was the bear killed for no reason?

Nevertheless, Amarena was found lifeless on the edge of the park on Thursday. Stretched out on all fours, with bloody gunshot wounds. The shooter turned himself in: a man named Andrea Leombruni, 56 years old, a hunter and truffle collector. He owns his gun legally. During interrogation, he said he aimed the shotgun at the ground, only once, out of fear. Nevertheless, the public prosecutor’s office initiated investigations – on suspicion of having killed the animal cruelly and without reason.

The atmosphere is now very heated. Leombruni even reported death threats to the Italian news agency Ansa. “I haven’t slept or eaten in three days. They even call my 85-year-old mother. The whole family is in the pillory.” “Giustizia” (“Justice”) was written on a wall in the neighborhood. The authorities banned a demonstration entitled “Justice for Mama Bear Amarena”.

The bear cubs cannot survive on their own

Even more than the question of whether Leombruni will be punished, the nation is concerned with the fate of the as yet unnamed cubs. The national park has been trying for days to find the two with more than a hundred helpers – until Monday noon without any success. Several traps with bait impregnated with the mother’s scent also failed. The search is made more difficult by the fact that the animals usually only become active when it gets dark.

According to experts, the little bears can only survive for a few days on their own because they cannot get enough food. So far they have been breastfed. There are also concerns that they could be killed by wolves or stray dogs. “With every day that passes, the search becomes more difficult,” says village mayor Antonio Cerasani. Hope now also rests on the fact that the two will be discovered by chance by passers-by. Or perhaps venture into one of the villages on your own.

From the point of view of the park administration, Amarena’s death is also a great loss because she was a particularly fertile bear with many offspring. The animals in the Abruzzo Park are “Martian brown bears”, a rare subspecies of which around 60 still live there. A few years ago there were still a hundred.

In Italy there are always debates about how to deal with bears that come close to people in the mountains. In April, a 26-year-old jogger was attacked and killed by a bear in the Trentino region. In the meantime, the authorities decided to have the animal killed. It may now be relocated to a bear reserve in Romania. The decision should be made this year.