News in Pictures / Bear Attacks in Japan at Record Level as Hibernation Nears Following Extremely Hot Summer

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of a hunting club load a bear onto a truck after removing it from a shed in Misato, Akita Prefecture, on Oct. 5.

As hibernation season nears, bears are being spotted in record numbers across the nation, mainly in the Tohoku and Hokuriku regions, attacking people and causing injuries at an alarming pace.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Suspected bear paw prints are seen in an agricultural field in Toyama City on Oct. 9.

In Akita Prefecture, a record 59 people had been injured as of Saturday, and the number of cases in which food and crops were damaged was nearly eight times higher than last year.

On Saturday morning, an 80-year-old man was walking with his dog on a farm road in Odate, Akita Prefecture, when a bear attacked him, biting him on his abdomen. According to the police, the bear suddenly appeared from a nearby woodland. It also scratched the man’s hand and ear when he fell on his side.

Courtesy of a reader
A bear is seen in the garden of a private residence in Akita City on Oct. 9.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
A man who was attacked by a bear indicates the direction in which the animal fled, in Akita City on Oct. 9.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
Police officers stand guard outside a hospital that a bear entered on Oct. 19, in Yurihonjo, Akita Prefecture.

Bears have appeared on school grounds in many places as well. At a high school in Senboku, Akita Prefecture, a teacher spotted a bear walking along the side of the gym a little after noon on Thursday. All the students were in class at the time, and the bear soon left without causing any damage.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Elementary school students in Murakami, Niigata Prefecture, walk home in a group on Oct. 5 after a bear was spotted on the school’s grounds that day.

The poor crop of nuts caused by the extremely hot summer is believed to be one of the reasons bears are coming into residential areas. In addition, the zones separating human areas and the bears’ habitats are disappearing due to depopulation.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Members of a hunting club search for a bear sighted in a residential area of Toyama City on Oct. 20.

The aging of hunters and the manpower shortage are also said to be contributing to the problem.

Encounters with a bear can happen anywhere, at any time and to any person. Akita and other prefectural governments are calling for residents and others to be alert.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A sign calling on people to exercise caution against bears is seen on Sept. 21 near the spot where a woman was attacked by a bear in Kazuno, Akita Prefecture.

If people do encounter a bear, they are advised not to make a loud noise and to slowly back away while staring at the bear.

Courtesy of Shizuoka prefectural government
A bear is seen caught in a trap in Kawazu, Shizuoka Prefecture, on Oct. 20. The animal was later released.