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In Italy, critically endangered bears are being hit by cars. We're here to help

Late last year, The European Nature Trust committed a significant funding package to support the construction of a fence along the SS17 road in Abruzzo to prevent collisions between bears and vehicles. On January 23rd, the urgency of the project was brought into stark light as Juan Carrito – a beloved Marsican brown bear – was fatally struck by a vehicle on the same tract of road. With the fence now near completion, we're reflecting on why such structural interventions are necessary to safely expand Abruzzo's fragile population of 60 bears to more protected areas.

Italy’s Abruzzo is a wild and untamed region with extensive tracts of old-growth beech and oak forests. It is a living library of rare species, with high levels of endemic fauna and flora. Here, a population of around 60 critically endangered Marsican brown bears roams the mountains. Little-known but much beloved in the Abruzzo area, it is a subspecies of the European brown bear that has become endemic to the region.

To secure a future for this fragile bear population, Marsican brown bears need to safely expand from the core population areas of the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National Park into other neighbouring protected areas. But as they disperse, bears are increasingly running into roads with heavy, industrial traffic. For some – including the cherished and charismatic Juan Carrito, who was fatally struck by a vehicle on January 23rd this year – crossing roads can be fatal.

One key stretch of road is particularly dangerous for bears. Five bears – including Juan Carrito – have been hit on the SS17 since 2014. Three were killed on impact, representing 5% of the estimated population.

Late last year, The European Nature Trust committed funding to Salviamo l’Orso, a local NGO, for the construction of a fence along the SS17 road. At that time, Juan Carrito was still alive and well, roaming the mountains. His tragic death has proven just how vital interventions like fencing have become as conservation groups attempt to grant the bears the ecological and social conditions for safe passage out of their core area. Infrastructural projects such as the fencing along SS17 should be the mandate of local governmental authorities, but the death of Juan Carrito shows the urgency of intervention – especially with such a fragile population.

 
It is believed that the Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise National park is nearing a carrying capacity for its population of Marsican brown bears. To expand, they need more habitable and protected areas, and studies show that these exist in abundance in the neighbouring protected areas. Salviamo l’Orso, as part of their Wildlife Corridors initiative, are working to improve the connectedness of bear habitats in five key corridors between protected areas in Abruzzo. You can stay up to date with their efforts and even contribute to remaining costs of the fencing via this GoFundMe link.

The five cor corridor areas where Salviamo l'Orso and other conservation groups are working to expand Abruzzo's Marsican brown bear population.

In partnership

We are ongoing supporters of Salviamo l'Orso and their mission to safely expand the Marsican brown bear population as a talismanic figure of the Abruzzo region.

Our partnership with DELL Ugo Foods – the UK's largest pasta producer – is providing a critical engine for awareness around the conservation of the Marsican brown bear.

“When One Tugs At A Single Thing In Nature, He Finds It Attached To The Rest Of The World.”

 John Muir, 
Naturalist & Environmental Philosopher

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