December 10, 2018
It has been reported last week that a Slovenian hunter killed a bear called Elisio, a collar-wearing subject of research at the University of Udine, Italy. The animal was shot in the area of Senožeče, Slovenia, and has in the past five years, while wearing the tracking collar, survived a collision with a train, completed several ascents over 2100 metres, swam across Cavazzo lake several times, and figured out how to safely cross a Slovenian highway.
The event stirred a lot of outrage on the Italian side of Elisio’s territory, while it continues to remain a minor story in Slovenia. One of the reasons might be in a conservation status of the Italian subspecies of the brown bear, that is the Apennine Brown Bear, which is marked at “critically endangered”. In contrast, the Slovenian government struggles to keep the number of ordinary European brown bears in check, with the conservation status marked as “least concern”, and bear salami being an ordinary offer at the Christmas stalls found in the central marketplace of Ljubljana. The important point here is that Elisio was an ordinary brown bear, not an endangered Apennine subspecies.
There are currently about 1,000 bears in Slovenia, and the Slovenian Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning ordered this number to be reduced by 200, 175 of which will be taken out by hunters before April 30, 2019 (Delo). This is also the reason why Italian researchers reported weekly on Elisio's whereabouts, hoping this would prevent him from getting shot. It did not.
Andrej Sila, from Sežana branch of the Slovenia Forest Service, expressed regret at the incident: “We are all very sorry that the hunter shot Elisio. We have permission to shoot five bears in our area due to population control. It happened as a consequence of a series of unfortunate events. The hunter shot the bear in the evening, when his collar wasn't visible.”. He also explained that weekly reports on the whereabouts of the bear cannot prevent these types of accidents, since bears tend to travel tens of kilometres a day.
This is not the first time Slovenian hunters killed a bear with an Italian research collar. In 2011 a Slovenian hunter shot a bear near Vrhnika, who then turned out to be an Italian media sensation called Dino. In the preceding year Dino managed to kill 14 donkeys in Northern Italy before the Slovenian hunter did not see his collar and shot him in a forest (source). Dino’s survival prospects, however, were dim even without the shooting, as his collar had grown deep into his flesh, causing an infection and starting to slowly suffocate the animal. When the hunter first saw him, Dino was hitting his head against a tree, presumably due to the pain. The collar, unlike the ones in use today, was not equipped with a “drop-off” system, which activates when the collar becomes too small and begins making it difficult for the animal to breath.