What to Do If You Encounter a Bear

Courtesy of the Toyama prefectural government
A bear that appeared in the city of Toyama

To avoid encounters with wild bears, expert Kazuhiko Maita recommends using local government websites and other sources to check where bears have been spotted. Hanging bear bells are effective in repelling bears, as they produce high-pitched sounds.

“Radios will have little effect because their sound won’t carry well in the mountains, even at high volume,” said Maita, who heads the Institute for Asian Black Bear Research and Conservation, a nonprofit organization in Hiroshima Prefecture.

It should also be remembered that bears are active at dawn and dusk.

If you encounter a bear in a close distance, repellant spray containing red pepper substances will help chase them away. Sprays are available at hardware stores and elsewhere, starting in price at several thousand yen.

Many have a range of about five meters. Practice how to use the spray ahead of time so you’ll be ready when you need it.

If a bear is extremely close, lie face-down and protect your neck with both hands.

“It’s most dangerous to be attacked while you’re standing. Bears will attack your head or neck, leading to a serious injury,” Maita said.