Bear attacks in Japan are increasing at an unprecedented rate, reports the British daily The Guardian. This is because animals try to find food in their natural environment. Most such incidents were reported in Akita Prefecture, in the far north of the island of Honshu, followed by Iwate and Fukushima. – We must be more vigilant – appealed the governor of Iwate, Takuya Tasso.
Since April this year, bears have killed two people and injured at least 158 people in Japan, reports The Guardian, citing Japanese media. These data equaled the record for attacks by these animals set in 2020.
Japan’s Ministry of Environment said most of the attacks took place in the northern part of Honshu, Japan’s largest island.
Increase in the number of bear attacks
According to experts, the increasing number of attacks may be related to the presence of larger juveniles that were born last year, as well as a deficiency of basic ingredients in their diet. The lack of food forces the animals to venture into populated areas in search of food before they go into hibernation in early December.
In the past, bear encounters almost always involved people wandering through the forest looking for herbs or unsuspecting tourists. However, the blurring of the once clear boundaries between these predators’ forest homes and depopulated villages has led to more frequent contact with humans in built-up areas.
According to the Japanese news agency Kyodo, 15 of Japan’s 47 prefectures have recorded bear attacks in the past six months (through September). The largest number occurred in Akita Prefecture, in the far north of the island of Honshu, followed by Iwate and Fukushima. Iwate prefectural authorities said more than half of the attacks reported this year occurred in or near homes. They added that one in five victims took preventive measures such as wearing bells to scare away the animals.
In early October, a bear attacked six people in one day, including an 80-year-old woman and a student waiting at a bus stop. The incidents occurred near the city of Akita.
“We need to be more vigilant”
The Environment Ministry called the increase in bear attacks unprecedented, and its minister – Shintaro Ito – urged people to properly dispose of household food waste, which can attract animals, and make sure doors are closed. Farmers were advised not to leave fallen fruit on the ground.
A man was found mauled in Iwate – the first fatality from a bear attack in the area in over a decade. And on Hokkaido, the northernmost island, police found the severed head of a fisherman. He was probably the victim of a bear attack.
– We shouldn’t put too much faith in the previous experiences of people who encountered bears and nothing happened to them. We must be more vigilant, said Iwate Governor Takuya Tasso.
Bears in Japan
There are two species of bears in Japan – the Himalayan bear (Ursus thibetanus) and brown bear (Ursus arctos), the latter of which occurs only on the island of Hokkaido.
Recent estimates published by the Yomiuri newspaper put the number of black bears at 44,000 – up from 15,000 in the past. estimated by the biodiversity center of the Ministry of the Environment in 2012. This figure does not include Hokkaido, which is considered home to approximately 11,700 brown bears, whose population has more than doubled since 1990.
The Guardian, tvnmeteo.pl
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