‘I could count all its teeth’: Italian couple find burglar is endangered brown bear

An Italian woman who investigated what she thought was a burglar on her balcony, has described a petrifying encounter with a rare brown bear.

The Marsican bear had climbed on to her bedroom balcony in Pescosolido, a village in the Lazio province of Frosinone, just days after a bear was spotted bathing in the fountain of a neighbouring village.

Annalisa Castagna and her husband, Claudio Parravano, came face-to-face with the bear on Sunday night. The Marsican is a critically endangered subspecies of the brown bear living in the Apennine mountains that straddle Italy’s Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise regions.

The couple initially thought there was a burglar on their first-floor balcony after hearing noises shortly after midnight, and stepped outside to investigate, using the light of their mobile phones.

“I practically screamed in the face of the bear,” Castagna wrote in a Facebook post shared with the online community group Sei di Pescosolido se. “The bear snarled back at me and tried to reach me with its paw. In the dim light of the mobile phone, I was able to count all its teeth and see its red tongue.”

Castagna leapt back inside, while Parravano threw himself over the balcony to escape the animal, causing minor injuries. The bear fled, leaving its faeces on the balcony.

“The bear was certainly frightened, possibly even more than we were,” said Castagna. “The fear was great and we thank God [nothing happened]. We ask our fellow Pescosolido citizens to be careful … and we hope those in charge will ensure that the bear returns to its natural habitat without being harmed.”

The encounter came a few days after a Marsican brown bear took a dip in the fountain of the main square in San Donato Val di Comino, a nearby village of about 1,200 residents where bears have occasionally been sighted on the streets.

A resident, Vania Tramontozzi, took photos and shared them with the Facebook group, Visit San Donato Val di Comino.

“My husband is the manager of the bar right by the square,” Tramontozzi told Kodami, a website for news about animals. “Seeing the bear so quiet and relaxed in the fountain, at about 7.45pm, when there were some people around, was very emotional.”

Both villages are close to the vast national park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise, home to the endangered Marsican bears, of which only an estimated 50 are left.

The animals tend to venture into inhabited areas more between September and November, but are not known to be aggressive towards humans.

A spokesperson for the national park, Daniela D’Amico, dicho: “Experts from the national park went to Pescosolido today to better understand what happened on Sunday night, but it is a little strange to hear that the bear managed to climb on to the balcony.”

Marsican bears that gravitate towards towns in search of food during the autumn are either females with cubs or young bears, ella dijo. “Bears are opportunistic and follow their stomachs … in this period they need to eat a lot in order to face the winter.”

Ella añadió: “It’s not that they’re malnourished. There is abundant food in the mountains. But staying in the mountains is risky for the young, who will have to share their territory and food with adult bears, and for female bears, who are at risk of male bears killing their cubs, forcing the female back into heat.”

En 2019, the Italian branch of the World Fauna silvestre Fund warned that the Marsican brown bear faced extinction. The population has dwindled during the past 25 años, con 63% of bear deaths attributed to illegal hunting or being hit by vehicles.

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