Europe’s ‘Most Wanted Bear’ Captured After 42 Days On The Run

by : Emily Brown on : 08 Sep 2020 11:43
Europe's 'Most Wanted Bear' Captured After 42 Days On The RunPress Office For Autonomous Province of Trento

A crafty bear who became Europe’s ‘most wanted’ has been captured and put back in its enclosure after 42 days on the run. 

The brown bear has the codename M49, which isn’t a spy name, but should be. The animal would probably have no trouble solving missions as it’s quick, clever and a master of escapology, seemingly determined to prove that no barrier can hold them.


On July 27, the 149kg (23st) animal scaled its enclosure in the Casteller centre, Italy. After its escape, the bear became the ‘most wanted bear in Europe’ and was described as an ‘escape genius’. Italian authorities nicknamed the animal Papillon after the eponymous character from Henri Charrière’s memoir about escaping from a French penal colony.

Papillon managed to break free despite the fact its enclosure had been reinforced after previous escapes, and once it had overcome the barriers Papillon made a break for it.

The bear had been given a radio collar to monitor its movements, but it managed to remove the device. Papillon became a champion of the force of nature over humans, but its freedom came to an end on Monday, September 7, when it was captured by rangers in the Italian province of Trento.


Local authorities said the animal was caught in a so-called ‘tube trap’, a device commonly used to capture bears. The president of the Trento province, Maurizio Fugatti, previously described Papillon as ‘a public safety problem’, but its capture has prompted outrage from wildlife groups.

Ornella Dorigatti, the Trento representative of the International Organization for Animal Protection, told The Guardian she planned to go on hunger strike for Papillon’s release.

She commented:


I’ve just taken this decision. We must save these bears. We are their voice, and we will fight until M49 is free.

Authorities first set out to capture Papillon in June 2019, when Fugatti declared the bear a risk to humans after it was seen close to inhabited areas. The bear’s enclosure was surrounded by three electric fences and a four-metre-high barrier, but Papillon overcame them all before disappearing into the woods.

The bear was found in April this year, when it was fitted with the collar and put into a reinforced enclosure, but evidently authorities underestimated Papillon’s determination as it escaped again just weeks later.


The WWF is arguing that the bear is not dangerous, as it has not shown aggression towards humans. The organisation said it had previously caused damage to infrastructure at the zoo, but that it only needs to be monitored, not locked up.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: Animals, Bear, Italy, Now, wildlife


The Guardian
  1. The Guardian

    Papillon, Europe's most wanted bear, captured after 42 days on the run