An "escape genius" bear in Italy is back in a wildlife enclosure after being recaptured for a third time—but friends in high places might help "Papillon" win his freedom permanently. Sergio Costa, Italy's environment minister, said Wednesday that it "hurts to know Papillon is in a cage" after the bear's most recent 42 days on the run. The bear was captured and placed in a wildlife enclosure last year after being spotted near inhabited areas in Trento province, but advocates say he has never shown aggression toward humans. "During the months of his regained freedom, he showed no signs of being dangerous," the minister said, per ANSA. "He sought food, as is right," Costa said, adding: "He could have had a tracking collar put on him again and been followed remotely."
But in his most recent escape, the bear actually removed his tracking collar after escaping from an enclosure that had been fortified after previous breakouts. "Papillon must live free,” the minister wrote in a Facebook post, per the Guardian. “I am wholeheartedly against the senseless treatment of this poor animal, whose only fault is that it is a bear. I’m on the side of Papillon, and we should all be ashamed of what is happening. A bear that has never been aggressive toward humans shall not and must not be treated like a hardened criminal.” Costa acknowledged that provincial authorities have jurisdiction in the matter but promised to raise the subject with Provincial President Maurizio Fugatti. (Read more escaped animal stories.)