Environment Minister to Consider Measures to Control Bear Population; Governors in Tohoku, Hokkaido Submit Request to Ministry

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
Asian black bear

The government is considering adding bears to the list of “designated wildlife species” so that they can be captured in an organized manner, Environment Minister Shintaro Ito announced Monday.

“We’d like to promote prompt support according to the needs of each region,” Ito said.

This fiscal year has seen injuries due to bear attacks hit record levels.

The ministry will determine whether it is appropriate to control the population of bears by capturing them, which is currently prohibited.

The Designated Wildlife Species for Control Capture Program is a system established by a revision of the Wildlife Protection, Control, and Hunting Management Law in fiscal 2014. Wild boar and Japanese deer are currently covered under this program. The government provides grants to prefectures that have established plans for the capture of these animals. If bears are designated, capturing bears using traps and nighttime gun hunting will be permitted under specific conditions.

The Hokkaido and Tohoku Regional Governors’ Association, chaired by Iwate Prefecture Gov. Takuya Tasso, submitted a written request to the Environment Ministry on Monday, pointing out that “the habitat of bears has expanded and there is an imminent danger to human life.” They requested that bears be a designated wildlife species and that support be provided by providing compensation for and covering the expenses of hunting bears, as well as for securing and training personnel to engage in this work.

In addition, the association requested that the regulations be revised to allow the use of tranquilizer guns on bears that have entered buildings. It also stated that if local governments and hunters were blamed for the capture of bears, “it could seriously hinder the security of those who become hunters and the safety of local communities,” and requested that the government communicate the necessity of the capture to the public.

“We need to strengthen population surveys and proper management [of bears], and we expect financial and technical support from the government in this regard,” Tasso said.