Government Considers Designating Prefectural Bear Populations for Capture Following Attacks

Japan’s Environment Ministry has initiated discussions on categorizing prefectural bear populations in order to facilitate their capture using a government subsidy program. The move comes in the wake of a recent spike in bear attacks. A panel of experts has been assembled to assess bear populations and the extent of damage caused. Their findings are expected to be compiled by February 2024 after a series of three meetings.

At the meeting, Takao Shiraishi, who heads the ministry’s Nature Conservation Bureau, emphasized the need to address the extinction and endangerment of bears in certain areas due to past excessive hunting. He stressed the importance of consulting with experts to develop strategies to prevent extinctions while prioritizing the safety of people.

According to the ministry, there were a total of 193 bear attacks in Japan between April and November, resulting in six fatalities out of 212 victims. These figures mark record highs since data collection began in 2006. Additionally, reports of injuries from bear attacks have continued into December, with incidents reported in Iwate and Ishikawa prefectures.

Bear distributions are on the rise in 34 prefectures, except for the western main island of Shikoku, with many areas experiencing a growth in estimated bear populations. However, while the Tohoku region has seen a significant increase in bear attacks, other regions have not observed a similar surge, as noted during the deliberations.

The meeting also highlighted the importance of analyzing regions where bear populations have not increased despite a decrease in the availability of their food source, such as acorns. This points to the complexity of the issue and the need for a comprehensive approach to bear management.

While some prefectures are seeking the designation in light of a rise in bear attacks, others are working to implement wildlife protection plans aimed at preserving bear populations. Currently, the government designates Japanese sika deer and boars under a similar system, indicating a recognition of the need to effectively manage wildlife populations for the benefit of both humans and animals.

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