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Victim Recounts Terror of Japan Bear Attack; 71-Year-Old Man Suffered Fractured Skull, Neck Lacerations

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Bear scratches seen on the back of the man’s head and jaw

AOMORI — “The bear hit me right in the vital spot,” a 71-year-old man told The Yomiuri Shimbun, recounting the moment of terror during his encounter with a bear in a mountain forest in Aomori in October. The bear seriously injured the medical worker.

The man said he could still hear the sound of the animal’s low growl.

The bear attack occurred at around 2:30 p.m. on Oct. 12. He had parked his car in a roadside clearing to check out the area before foraging for mushrooms. The attack came when he had only gone about 2 to 3 meters into the bush.

He heard a rustling sound across a creek. Thinking it might be a wild boar, the man instead found a black bulk bearing down on him. “Once I noticed it, it was over as quick as a flash, less than a second, I would say,” the man said.

The bear — standing about 1.2 meters tall — grabbed him and dug its claws into the back of his head and his jaw. The bear tried to bite him on the neck, but he quickly blocked it with his left hand and kicked it in the stomach. “Damn!” he yelled, which startled the bear, and it ran away.

The encounter made the man panic. He found himself bleeding from the scalp and he suffered lacerations to his neck and face. His skull was fractured and he broke his left hand, too.

The cotton work gloves he was wearing protected his thumbs from being bitten off. He used a towel to stop the bleeding, rushed to a nearby police box on his own and was transported to Aomori Prefectural Central Hospital.

The site of the attack was about 400 meters west of the Aomori Public University campus and about 500 meters east of Hakkoda Ikoino Bokujo park.

The man said he has been picking mushrooms in the area for more than 10 years and had never seen a bear.

He knew how to avoid encounters with bears when entering the mountain, such as by making noise and hiking in a group.

“But, it’s near a fishing spot. I didn’t expect to see a bear so close to a human settlement,” the man said, adding that he would stop foraging for mushrooms for the time being.

“Anyone can encounter bears anywhere, anytime now,” he said.