Image: Facebook, Dino the Bear
Dino, the bear with over 25,000 Facebook friends, mostly Italians, was shot by a hunter in Slovenia. Hunting bears is legal in Slovenia, where approximately one hundred bears are killed annually, under permits intended to maintain the population at current levels. But the bears, like Dino, that wander west into parts of Europe no longer inhabited by their species gain a degree of special protection, under efforts to re-introduce wild bears to their former range. Thus it came as a suprise to learn, according to the headlines in Italy's Corriere della Sera, that Dino was killed on purpose. Slovenian authorities issued a permit to kill Dino due to unusual behavior which raised fears that the bear had contracted rabies. Only after Dino's death and autopsy was the truth made clear: Dino was knocking his head against walls because a wound on his neck was bothering him. The bear did not suffer rabies. Dino's facebook wall now serves as a memorial by those who loved him.
Ever since Dino the bear first wandered across the border from Slovenia into Italy, controversy followed him. Dino, officially identified by his Bond-like code name "M-5," was welcomed by Italians who favor the re-introduction of wild bears into the Alps. But like Bruno before him, Dino made enemies by dining on livestock. As chickens, cattle, and even a horse fell victim to the hungry bear's appetite, pressures to eliminate the bear increased.
Groups in Italy considered Dino a success story for animal activists. Voices mounted in the social media and with fund-raisers, countering calls to capture or shoot Dino. Dino became famous as the facebook bear. The issue reverberated all the way to the halls of the Italian Minister of Agriculture, Giancarlo Galan, who said "No one touches a hair on Dino."
Battle lines naturally will be drawn between those who want to see nature roaming reely where humanity now presides, and those who lose livestock or suffer from the proximity between humans and wild things. But polls show that 70% of the citizens in areas attempting re-introduction of bears favor the effort. We thank them for their commitment; the preservation of species depends upon people working together to create corridors where wildlife can thrive while minimizing the threats to people sharing this small planet.