SAPPORO – A brown bear that had been roaming around a residential district in Sapporo since the beginning of August was shot dead Wednesday morning, the Sapporo Municipal Government said Wednesday.
According to the government authority, members of a local hunting association found a bear in the mountains in the city’s Minami Ward and shot it. The female bear with a white neck was 140 cm tall, weighing 128 kg, and experts later determined that it was likely the same bear that had recently been spotted in residential areas.
Residents were frightened of the bear, which seemed accustomed to humans and was unafraid of patrol sirens. It was often spotted wandering into gardens and eating fruit. At first the bear was seen only at night, but it started to make appearances in broad daylight from Monday.
As children at a nearby school are set to return soon from summer vacation, the Sapporo government had been making every effort to catch the bear as quickly as possible.
The city set a trap Saturday and attempted to lure it there with corn and pears. It also enlisted the help of the local hunting association.
It has also asked people to retrieve food offerings made at gravesites during the Bon holiday, when people in Japan honor their ancestors.
“My children were saying they were afraid, so I’m glad it was captured,” said Naoto Kitade, 44, who was visiting a gravesite with his family on Wednesday. “I come to the gravesite every year so I was surprised to see the media reports.”
Eiko Sugimoto, a 90-year-old resident in Minami Ward, said she opened the door of her home to take her trash out Monday morning but immediately went back inside and locked the door after hearing an announcement from a police car that a bear was in the area.
“I can’t sleep at all at night,” she said before the bear was captured.
Isao Honma, a 76-year-old resident, was frustrated to find that the bear had devoured almost all of his corn.
“It was almost harvest time and my grandchildren were looking forward to eating it,” he said.
The city believes that the bear got its first taste of the area’s food by snacking on fruit from nearby orchards that were left untended amid the nation’s rapidly graying population. The bear then started going into residential areas in search of more food.
Hitoshi Suzumori, 70, who witnessed the bear in front of his house Monday morning, said, “I kind of feel sorry for the bear. I wish the bear had returned to the mountains before this happened. I want authorities to come up with a good way to coexist with bears.”
Before the bear was killed, Tsutomu Mano, an expert on brown bears from the Hokkaido Research Organization, said he didn’t believe the animal was aggressive.
“(It) probably learned that humans don’t attack them and are harmless,” Mano said, adding that similar situations are occurring repeatedly and that creating a system to deal with them is urgent given that members of local hunting associations are also aging.
“The local hunting associations are always the ones who are expected to resolve the issue, and there are no core staff from the public sector to do so,” he said.
The same day, a 68-year-old woman was attacked by a bear in the city of Daisen in Akita Prefecture at around 3:30 a.m. while delivering newspapers.
Police said Kazuko Kusanagi was attacked by the bear, which was about 1 meter tall, and sustained non-life threatening injuries to her head and face.
The bear emerged from a plastic greenhouse on the grounds of a private residence and ran away after attacking her, Kusanagi reportedly told police. A bag containing rice bran stocked inside the greenhouse was found damaged.
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