Juan Carrito, Italy’s Beloved Brown Bear, Dies In Traffic Accident

Juan Carrito’s mother, Amarena, had been notorious in her own right as a food-conditioned bear. (She also gained some fame for giving birth in January 2020 to four cubs, a record for Apennine brown bears, according to Mr. Antonelli.)

The first time Juan Carrito was released into the wild, in December 2021, he spent a week in the forest before venturing back into an inhabited area. He was captured again months later and placed in a bear reserve, in the hopes that he would develop a taste for more appropriate natural food: berries, insects, carcasses, honey.

This time, he lasted three weeks in the wilderness before the lure of junk food brought him back into human habitats. The Italian news media breathlessly tracked his movements, relishing the rebellious bear, while forest rangers tracked him via a radio collar, hoping he would remain safe and far away.

“It was difficult because once a bear has learned how to find easy food, it goes back,” Mr. Antonelli said. “It’s like humans being shown a buffet and told they can eat for free.”

The fact that Juan Carrito was still roaming the Apennines in January, rather than hibernating as bears should, was because he was looking for food in villages, he said: “That was anomalous.”

The bear’s scientific name was M20, but he was named Juan Carrito for the tiny town where he did some of his first incursions, and Juan is the Spanish version of Giovanni, for Giovanni Cannata, president of the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise.

Juan Carrito became a mascot of sorts of the Abruzzo region. When he broke into a beehive last September, the beekeeper joked that the bear loved his products. Last month, a local Michelin-starred chef, Niko Romito, caught the bear roaming around near his three-star restaurant. He posted on Instagram that the bear had gone straight for the kitchen.

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