ACTIVISTS have put the welfare of a greaterkashmir before the safety of hikers.
They reacted with fury over an order to kill the bear which badly mauled a hiker and is still on the loose.
Authorities fear the beast could strike again but activists said the kill order was “abominable” despite fears the bear has attacked before.
A bear hunt is now underway in the Italian Alps after Angelo Metlicovec, 69, was brutally mauled – and later said the huge animal wanted to kill him.
Mr Metlicovec only survived after the bear was briefly distracted by his pet dog, allowing him to leap into a gully.
The bear bit chunks out his arm and tried to tear out his throat before his barking dog saved him, his son said.
The attack has stoked criticism of a bear repopulation scheme begun in the mountainous province of Trento in 1999.
Many believe the guilty animal to be a female brown bear known as KJ2, which mauled a man two years ago and has never been caught.
Ugo Rossi, the provincial president said he was in no doubt: “There are too many bears in our territory.”
But the attempt to catch or kill the bear has enraged the animal rights group LAV, which wants the animal left unharmed despite the risk to other hikers in the region.
A LAV spokesman said: “Bears didn’t choose to come back but were brought back by the province.
“Real bears are not teddy bears or targets.”
The attack happened Mr Metlicovec was out for a walk in hills near his home with his Cira, his 15-month-old dog, and heard something approaching fast from behind.
“He whirled round but had no time to react before the bear bit into his leg,” his son Andrea said afterwards.
“It then went for his throat, but dad got his arm in the way, which the bear bit chunks out of. Luckily Cira started barking, distracting the bear for a second, allowing my father to leap into a gully by the path as the bear took off after Cira.”
Mr Metlicovec is now in hospital having an operation to restore movement to his fingers.
“He is a very strong man, but can’t sleep because he sees the bear in front of him again,” his son added.
Cira, a mix of a Belgian shepherd and a Bernese mountain dog, escaped the bear, but has since been hiding in his basket.
Andrea said: “My father can’t wait to get home to thank him for saving his life.”
As bears neared extinction in the province of Trento in 1999, ten were introduced into the wild from Slovenia.
A spokesman for the province said: “It’s been a success since we have about 60 now, but that may be too many.” Officials suggest that the attacker may be KJ2, which was thought to be responsible for attacking a jogger on a path six miles outside Trento.
The official said efforts to catch the bear were being stepped up after the latest attack.
“We are putting out three traps, and any bear caught will be sedated with a dart.
“We’ll then take blood and hair samples, put a tracker collar on the bear and release it. If the samples match those left on Mr Metlicovec’s jacket, we will track the bear, tranquillise it again and keep it in captivity or put it down,” he said.