Rome: Italians are mourning the death of a rare brown bear who became famous for his jaunts to small mountain villages in the Abruzzo region.
Affectionately known as Juan Carrito, the three-year-old Marsican bear was killed after being hit by a car in the town of Castel di Sangro on Monday afternoon.
“It is with great pain that I learned of the news of the death of Juan Carrito, the most famous and loved Marsican bear in Abruzzo,” the regional president, Marco Marsilio, said. “His loss saddens not only Abruzzo but the whole world that discovered Abruzzo and the beauty of bears through the numerous videos [of Carrito] since he was a cub.”
Carrito became known for his outings to populated areas, visits which became even more brazen after two failed attempts to rewild him. The town considered “home” was Roccaraso, a ski resort where he scoffed a batch of freshly baked biscuits after breaking into a bakery in late 2021.
Carrito was also spotted drinking from a fountain in the village, and would often stay overnight, sleeping among pine trees before going in search of food, rummaging through bins and dining off leftover pizza and sandwiches.
The biscuit heist led to the bear being captured and banished to a remote area in the mountains, but he later returned, leading to a second capture in March last year and a period in an enclosure. That attempt to rewild him also failed, and Carrito returned to Roccaraso, where he was seen earlier this month on a ski slope.
One explanation for Carrito’s sociability was his upbringing: he was one of four cubs born to a bear called Amarena. Such was the rarity of the event – on average, female Marsicans give birth to between one and three cubs – that the family attracted much attention. One of the first villages in which Amarena and her cubs appeared was Carrito, hence the nickname.
The Marsican is a critically endangered subspecies of the brown bear living in the Apennine mountains that straddle the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise regions.
Their numbers across the area have dwindled to about 50 over the past two decades, thought to be the result of illegal hunting or the animals being hit by vehicles.
“We are all very shocked,” Mena Ricci, a regional representative for the World Wildlife Fund, told La Presse news agency. “Unfortunately, this was a death that none of us wanted to hear.”
Luciano D’Alfsono, a deputy with the Democratic party, said the death of Carrito was sad news “for all of us in Abruzzo”, adding that Carrito would be remembered for his “irreverent and free nature”.
People also took to social media to express their sadness. “Juan was one of us,” wrote a commenter on Twitter.