Animal rights groups in Italy are calling on authorities to lift a death sentence on a brown bear that attacked a father and son last week on a hiking trail in the northern region of Trentino.

Fabio Misseroni, 59, and his son Christian Misseroni, 28, were hiking Monday on a path on Mount Peller when they say the bear leaped into their path.The bear bit Misseroni’s leg before his father jumped on the animal’s back so he could escape, the son told CNN. The bear then bit and swiped at the older man, breaking his leg in three places. Misseroni jumped up and down and clapped his hands to distract the bear from his father before the animal ran off into the woods, he recalled.

Italy’s National Institute for Environmental Protection and Research regulations call for bears that attack humans to be euthanized.

After the attack, Trentino governor Maurizio Fugatti signed a cull order allowing for the capture and kill of the bear, which authorities are trying to identify through DNA garnered from saliva and fur left in the claw and bite wounds and on the father’s and son’s clothing.

Nearly 15,000 people by Saturday had signed a World Wide Fund for Nature petition to save the bear, calling for an immediate ban on the death sentence.

The Italian environment minister also wrote a letter saying he is against the culling of the bear which, he said, may have been a female protecting cubs.

“Only after collecting certain scientific information on the animal involved in the accident with the two citizens we will be able to evaluate technical solutions that, in my opinion, must not result in killing the animal,” Sergio Costa wrote to Fugatti.


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