Increased Bear Sightings in Owase, Mie Pref., Raising Concerns; Safety Patrol Routes Protecting Elementary Students

Image provided by the city
A bear is seen on dashcam footage in Owase, Mie Prefecture, on June 7.

The local government in Owase, Mie Prefecture, has stepped up efforts to patrol routes mainly around an elementary school in the city after a series of bear sightings, said a representative at a press conference on Thursday. The city is calling on local residents and tourists to stay vigilant.

A total of nine bear sightings were reported between January 25 and June 12, according to the city. A driver on National Highway Route 42 witnessed a bear climbing a roadside fence. The bear in the footage of the dashcam appears to be an adult around three years old and about 90 centimeters long.

A bear appeared in the downtown area on Monday and Wednesday, forcing students at a nearby elementary school to return home in groups. The city and local police officials have been patrolling the city mainly during the hours when the students go to and from school.

All of the bear sightings reported are believed to be the same bear. The city had placed a cage in the mountains on Thursday. The city is using the community wireless system to call on locals to stay vigilant and has posted a warning sign at the entrance of Kumano Kodo, a local pilgrimage route. The Owase Tourism and Products Association has begun renting out bear bells and portable radios to Kumano Kodo visitors.

The city also said, “Please refrain from putting garbage out until just before the collection time in order to not create feeding grounds for bears. Please bring something that makes loud noises when going into the mountains.”