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The Environment Ministry plans to conduct an emergency survey to discover what has prompted a surge in bear attacks across the country since the summer.

The ministry has sent letters to all prefectural governments other than those in Hokkaido and Kyushu, which are not inhabited by black bears, asking for their cooperation in gathering data, ministry officials said Tuesday.

The ministry hopes to collect data on bear habitats and find out why bears nationwide are more frequently approaching humans and attacking them, they said.

“It is difficult to immediately take effective measures to prevent damage, but we want to find out whether the surge of bear appearances is caused by weather or other short-term factors or by long-term factors, such as shrinking habitats, and then think about countermeasures,” one ministry official said.

There has been a noticeable rise in the number of attacks by bears, notably black bears, since the summer, with Toyama, Ishikawa and Fukui prefectures in the Hokuriku region accounting for the bulk of cases.

Since April, one person has been killed and more than 90 others have been injured in bear attacks, the officials said.

Experts believe that one of the reasons more bears are being seen near people’s homes is that nuts are in short supply this year due to a high number of typhoons and the scorching summer heat.

In its survey, the ministry plans to gather data up until the Nov. 15 start of the hunting season from each prefecture on bears captured or killed for coming too close to people’s homes. The information will include the total number of bears, as well as each animal’s gender, size, estimated age and location of its capture.

The survey results will be compiled by the end of March, the officials said.

The ministry also plans to dispatch experts to areas with frequent bear attacks to monitor the natural environment and to investigate the circumstances in which humans have come into contact with the animals.

Meanwhile, a network of 45 environmental and conservation groups submitted a petition to the ministry Tuesday asking the government to adopt long-term measures, such as restoring bear habitats to prevent them from disappearing.

Network members said they are urging the ministry to immediately reduce the number of bears that can be killed legally by hunters and to map out a comprehensive bear protection program in lieu of existing policies administered by prefectural governments.

The network is also calling on the ministry to expand hardwood forests as part of a long-term protection program.

Environmental conservationists argue that killing bears is not a long-term solution and may endanger bear populations in certain areas.

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