AKITA – Akita Prefecture is stepping up vigilance against bears attacking people in the wake of the apparent mauling death of a local woman over the weekend.
Masako Oishi, a 61-year-old assistant nurse from the eastern Akita city of Senboku, was found dead shortly after noon on Saturday in the city’s mountains. She set off on a hike at around 6 a.m. with a female acquaintance to pick bamboo shoots, a seasonal delicacy.
At around 8:30 a.m., the acquaintance returned to the parking lot at the foot of the mountains, but Oishi did not return, according to police. When locals searched for her, they found her dead, bleeding and lying on the ground.
She had been mauled on several parts of her body, including her head, shoulders and arms, leading the police to suspect she was attacked by a bear.
In the neighboring city of Kazuka in the same prefecture, four people were killed by Asian black bears while picking wild vegetables last year.
The prefecture held an emergency meeting on Sunday, calling on locals to watch out for young and aggressive bears. The police and the city of Senboku made parts of the city’s mountains off-limits to hikers and stepped up patrols.
The prefecture will also collect samples of bear hair on the victim’s body. When local licensed hunters catch a wild bear in the future they will check if the hair’s DNA matches that of the bear.
“Mountain vegetable picking has been part of local culture so it’s difficult to make all of the mountains off-limits to locals,” said Takehiko Takamatsu, a prefectural official in charge of nature conservation. “But we will continue to persuade locals of the dangers of bear attacks.”