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Bear blamed for Italy runner's death in Alps gets reprieve from being euthanized for now

The life of a bear who authorities say fatally attacked a man last month has been spared, for now, an administrative court in Italy's Alpine region ruled on Friday. The brown bear, identified as Jj4, killed 26-year-old Andrea Papi on a mountain trail, officials said, sparking an intensive, two-week, hunt that led to the bear's capture on April 18.

It was unclear if Jj4 might have attacked Papi, who was on a training run, because cubs were nearby. His family has said they oppose killing the bear.

With its ruling Friday, the court panel in the city of Trento requested more details about the dynamics of the attack by the 17-year-old female bear and thus suspended an order by local authorities to have the animal euthanized.

The capture of Jj4 in Val Meledrio by the Trentino Forest Service. Province of Trentino

The suspension lasts until June 27. But the bear's fate might not even be decided then, since a hearing was set for Dec. 14 to decide the merits of animal rights advocates' proposals to transfer the bear to a refuge — just where is unclear — where the animal wouldn't be a danger to humans.

The Italian news agency ANSA also said the court concluded that more details from Papi's autopsy were needed before any decision comes on the bear's fate.

Earlier this month, activists tried to argue the teeth marks on the victim proved the aggressor was male, according to Agence France-Presse.

The provincial president has argued that Papi's death could have been avoided if the bear had been euthanized after it attacked two people, wounding them, in 2020.

The parents of Jj4 were brought to Italy from Slovenia two decades ago as part of a project, funded by the European Union, to increase the brown bear population that was then feared to be dwindling toward near extinction. The bear population thrived, with the animals increasingly encountering people.

Around 100 wild bears were located in the region in 2021, the Reuters news agency reported, citing government data. The local governor has said the ideal number would be around 50, according to Reuters.

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