Italian forest rangers are on the hunt for a brown bear described by some as “gifted with superpowers.”
The bear climbed over three electric fences and a 13-foot barrier in an apparently heroic escape Sunday, according to a BBC report published Wednesday. Authorities in the Trentino region of northern Italy had snared the animal, who was able to flee within hours.
Codenamed M49, the 328-lb. bear had been deemed a threat to humans after being spotted close to inhabited areas, frequently raiding beehives and attacking livestock. The president of Trentino, Maurizio Fugatti, had ordered its capture more than a month ago. After the bear defied his authority, Fugatti gave forest rangers “permission to shoot it down.”
“The fact that the bear managed to climb over an electric fence with seven wires at 7,000 volts demonstrates that this specimen is dangerous and a public safety problem,” Fugatti said, according to The Guardian. (RELATED: Alaska Man Charged With Illegal Killing Of A Polar Bear, Facing $100,000 Fine)
Environmentalist groups were quick to question the forest rangers’ effectiveness and criticize Fugatti’s appeal for violence.
WWF Italy, a member of the conservation organization World Wide Fund for Nature, questioned how the bear was able to climb multiple electric fences, suggesting that the Italian rangers’ barriers were “not working properly.” M49 could not have withstood the electricity, nor could it have overcome the fences by other means, “since bears do not fly.”
Italy’s League for the Abolition of Hunting also sided with the bear, praising its ability to outsmart its would-be captors.
“Evidently, M49 is an escape genius … gifted with superpowers akin to a hero of Marvel Comics,” the organization reportedly said.
The president of the Italian Defense League for Animals, Michela Vittoria Brambilla, advised M49 to “run and save yourself!”
“We are on the side of the bear and of freedom,” Brambilla proclaimed, according to BBC.
Many commenters on social media seem to share the same enthusiasm environmentalist groups have for the bear. The hashtag #fugaperlaliberta” — “escape for freedom” — was trending on Twitter for some time. (RELATED: Dan Bilzerian Responds To PETA After Grizzly Bear Stunt, ‘They Can Suck My D**k’)
Though M49 has won fans worldwide, brown bears remain dangerous animals. Attacks in Italy are rare, but an elderly Trentino man was seriously mauled by a female bear while walking his dog in 2017.
M49 is a member of a growing population of Alpine brown bears in Trentino. With E.U. funding, the project Life Ursus reintroduced the bears to the region in 2000. The population has risen from four bears at the time to about 50 today.
Life Ursus joined the chorus of Fugatti critics, calling the president’s order to execute the animal “cruel, unjustified and irrational” and likening the Trentino government to King Kong’s killers.
“We all know how King Kong ends: the beast defends itself but finally succumbs,” the group said in a statement, according to The Guardian. “The same script has already been written for M49.”