Most bear attacks in a decade in mountainous northern Japan

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Asiatic black bear

Because of (1) a shortage of nuts that bears normally eat before hibernation and (2) a shrinking human population in Japan’s remote villages, there has been an increase in bear attacks on people in the mountainous regions of northern Japan; the most in 10 years.

Asiatic black bear

Asiatic black bear in a zoo looking decidedly miserable. Photo: Guérin Nicolas on Wikipedia published un creative commons license.

A recent attack reports that a Japanese woman was fatally mauled and two other people were injured after hungry bears invaded villages in search of food. According to the environment ministry, 157 people were attacked by bears in 2019.

Local people attach bells to their bags in the hope that they will scare them off. The experts advise that if people encounter a bear they should avoid sudden movements, walk backwards slowly and steadily and remind themselves that the bear is also frightened.

Takako Saito, 73, died on Sunday. She died 10 days after she was found bleeding and unconscious near her home in Sekikawa village which is 150 miles north of Tokyo. It was the first fatal bear attack in the prefecture for 19 years.

In the autumn, Asiatic black bears feed on acorns, chestnuts and beach nuts. In 2001 a bear attacked four people in Iwate. They describe the bear as going berserk when it attacked four elderly people. One woman was picking up some chestnuts at about 6 am in the morning and heading home to her house when she noticed a bear about 50 m away in woods. The bear suddenly rushed at her. She tried to flee without success. The bear slammed into her knocking her to the ground and it bit her knee before fleeing. The bear was on a rampage and nobody was killed. They were just terrorised.