A rare brown bear who became famous after breaking into a bakery and feasting on the biscuits has been captured in the central Italian region of Abruzzo, sparking criticism from animal activists.

The marsican bear, affectionately known as Juan Carrito by residents in the mountain town of Roccaraso, has been taken to an enclosure for “problem” animals.

The two-year-old bear had been tranquillised and banished to a remote area of the national park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise after his midnight feast at the bakery in early December. But a week later the animal returned to Roccaraso, a ski resort, where he was filmed in the snow shrugging off a dog biting and barking around him.

Juan Carrito has been seen in Roccaraso on several other occasions over the past two years, strolling along the streets and drinking from fountains. He was recently spotted near the train station and on Sunday afternoon was captured after being enticed with bait to walk into a “tube trap” – a device commonly used to capture bears.

The animal was put to sleep with anaesthetic and taken to the Palena bear reserve in the province of Chieti.

The authorities said that while it was a difficult decision, capturing the bear was necessary due to its “confident” behaviour, and for its own protection.

“The intervention was necessary to protect the bear and keep it away from potentially dangerous situations and, in general, from an environment where it has been feeding almost exclusively on waste for too long,” said Lucio Zazzara, the president of the Maiella national park, a home to marsican brown bears.

Juan Carrito’s stay at Palena, where he will be monitored around the clock by video surveillance, is expected to be temporary.

“Now the priority is to work on its return to nature by implementing the procedures that will enable this to happen,” added Zazzara.

Over 600 people had signed a petition against the bear’s capture. “Juan Carrito never harmed anyone,” said Luigi Liberatore, the Roccaraso resident who started the petition.

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.

In 2019, the Italian branch of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned that the animal faced extinction. The population has dwindled during the past 25 years, with 63% of bear deaths attributed to illegal hunting or being hit by vehicles.

Marsican brown bears often gravitate towards towns during the autumn and winter in search of food. They are usually females with cubs or young bears.

WWF Italy said Juan Carrito’s capture represented an “alarm signal” for those who care about the species. “Even in the awareness that this complex situation has no simple solutions, it remains to be asked if everything was done to avoid this sad move.”

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