Juan Carrito was famous for playful nature and raids in search of food.
A wild bear known affectionately as Juan Carrito died after being struck by a car in Italy's central Abruzzo region on Monday night.
News of the rare animal's death was confirmed by the National Park of Abruzzo, Lazio and Molise (PNALM), a vast protected area home to Italy's critically endangered Marsican bears.
The four-year-old bear was run over by an Opel Corsa which was destroyed on impact however the car's driver, a local woman, and another passenger, were unharmed.
The incident occurred on a highway leading to Castel Di Sangro, in the L'Aquila area near the Roccaraso tunnel, with footage on social media showing the last breaths of the majestic 150-kg animal.
Juan Carrito received emergency medical aid, both on the spot and in a nearby specialist centre, but died from the trauma shortly afterwards.
The accident happened "in a stretch where there were fences and everything needed to protect these animals", said the park's director Luciano Sammarone, adding: "I am shocked, it is as if a family member has died".
The president of the Abruzzo Region, Marco Marsilio, said he learnt of the news "with great pain", describing Juan Carrito as "the most famous and beloved Marsican bear in Abruzzo."
Marsilio added: "His loss saddens not only Abruzzo but the whole world that has discovered Abruzzo and the beauty of bears through the numerous videos that showed him as a cub with his brothers and mother Amarena".
Juan Carrito was famed for his appetite and made international headlines two years ago after breaking into a bakery for a late-night feast of biscuits.
The animal's increasingly daring forays into urban areas in search of food prompted park authorities to relocate him - twice - to a remote area of the mountains.
However Juan Carrito surprised everyone by making the 150-km trek back to his stomping ground of Roccaraso.
Tracked by a radio collar, the Marsican bear was noted for his lack of fear of humans and his playful nature towards dogs.
Juan Carrito, orso abruzzese amico degli abitanti e giocherellone addirittura con i cani del posto è stato investito e sta lottando tra la vita e la morte. Per noi abruzzesi è una mascotte a cui è impossibile non voler bene. Ti prego Juan,resisti #JuanCarrito #Abruzzo pic.twitter.com/kjYcsgoZcb
— Nicola (@Nicola6140) January 23, 2023
Aside from the region's sentimental attachment to Juan Carrito, his loss is a further blow to the critically endangered Marsican bear, a subspecies of the brown bear.
There are only about 50 of the animals left in existence, compared to 100 in 1980.
The main threat to the bears' survival is man, with direct and indirect risks including poaching, poisoning, deforestation, cattle grazing and road accidents.
Also known as the Apennine brown bear (Ursus arctos marsicanus), the animal is the largest land creature in the wild in Italy.
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