In 2023, the country’s Ministry of Environment reported a record-breaking number: 212 people faced attacks from brown and Asiatic bears in the country, and six of these attacks resulted in deaths, the country’s broadcaster, NHK, reported. Additionally, residents reported an increased number of sightings in urban areas.
Akita is the hardest-hit region, an area of north-east rural Prefecture, which has forests and mountains. The Ministry of Environment says that a third of bear attacks occurred in Akita.
According to CNN, an aging population and the exodus of younger generations from rural areas have led to a shortage of capable people who can tend land. TsutomuMano, senior researcher at Hokkaido Research Organization said that bears are drawn to “abandonment and overgrowth of cultivated land along riversides”.
There are numbers to indicate that elderly populations are also facing the brunt of these bear attacks — in October, 61 of the 71 bear attacks reported included people over the age of 60, CNN reported, citing NHK statistics.
Mano also told CNN climate change is likely affecting the bear’s food supply of beech nuts and acorns, making it more necessary for them to scavenge new areas — including human settlements — for food.
The government is searching for ways to stop the attacks by bears. In Akita , Bounties on bears are placed to encourage local hunters. The city of Takikawa installed motion-sensing dogs that make a loud sound when activated by a black bear.
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