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Escape Artist Bear, Papillon, on the Loose Again in Trento

This four-year-old bear only wants one thing: to be free.

The book, Papillon, tells the story of French convict Henri Charrière and his dramatic escape from Devil’s Island prison in the 1930s. Well, this daring tale has seemed to hit home for one Italian bear. 

Early Monday morning, a four-year-old brown bear, nicknamed Papillon, once again escaped his enclosure at the Castellar wildlife park. He climbed over three electric fences and broke through metal bars around the perimeter to make his way to freedom. 

Authorities say Papillon has broken out of his enclosure multiple times in the past, some saying this is his third incident. His most recent break out was in July of last year. He was on the loose for almost a year before being recaptured in April. However, captivity wasn’t to his liking as he escaped again with hours of his return. Keepers managed to swiftly locate him and bring him back for good until now. Luckily for the public, Papillon was outfited with a GPS tracker after his last outing in April. The bear neutered to try and curb his wilder inclinations.

Despite their efforts, Papillon returned to the forest once again and is still currently at large. 

During his last escape, Trentino President Maurizio Fugatti called on officials to shoot the bear if spotted. However, after push back from animal activists, Fugatti took a different approach this time. He instead issued a warning to residents and assured them of the bear’s eventual return. 

He said, “The problem is he [Papillon] is too wild and has a strong instinct to return to the forest. He had a desire to escape stronger than a 6,000-volt fence.”

Brown bears were reintroduced in 1999 as part of a project to rejuvenate the species in the Italian Alps. However, the plan backfired as researchers thought the bears would spread out and roam. Instead, they have stayed close to their release site surviving on local livestock. There are about 100 wild brown bears in the area currently. 

Residents have seen an uptick in bear attacks over recent years. Some of these ‘problem’ bears, like Papillon, have been removed and relocated to wildlife enclosures. Others were euthanized. 

The World Wildlife Fund is calling for further investigation into the bear’s escapes. A representative for the organization stated they were concerned about possible negligence in the situation.

“The fence was most likely not working properly, since bears do not fly.”


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