Gov’t mulls designating prefectural bear populations for capture after attacks
TOKYO – Japan’s Environment Ministry began deliberations Tuesday on designating prefectural bear populations to assist their capture under a government subsidy system, amid a recent surge in attacks.
The panel of experts, which will analyze bear populations and damage, is expected to summarize its findings by February 2024 following a total of three meetings.
“There are areas where bears have become extinct or are endangered due to past excessive hunting,” Takao Shiraishi, who heads the ministry’s Nature Conservation Bureau, said at the meeting.
“It is necessary to listen to experts and come up with measures to halt extinctions while prioritizing the prevention of injuries to people,” he said.
There were a total of 193 bear attacks in Japan between April and November, with six fatalities among the 212 victims, all record highs since the tallying of figures for the period began in 2006, according to the ministry.
There have also been reports of injuries from bear attacks in Iwate and Ishikawa prefectures even into December.
A ministry official said bear distributions have been growing in 34 prefectures, apart from the western main island of Shikoku, with many seeing an increase in estimated populations as well.
However, while bear attacks in the northeastern Tohoku region have increased notably, those in other regions have not seen dramatic upticks, according to the meeting.
“It is necessary to analyze regions that did not see a surge in the appearance of bears despite a fall in the abundance of (their diet of) acorns,” a panel member said.
While some prefectures are hoping for the designation amid an increase in attacks, others are trying to implement wildlife protection plans to save bear populations.
The government currently designates Japanese sika deer and boars under the system.