In search of food

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - ENVIRONMENT -

of acorns the fol­low­ing au­tumn, too.

“Bears born in these years have now be­come very ac­tive, partly be­cause acorns are in short sup­ply,” Maita said.

Some ex­perts have sug­gested changes in forests and farm­land are also be­hind the spate of bear en­coun­ters.

Forests in moun­tain­ous ar­eas were once main­tained by forestry work­ers, but this work has been in­creas­ingly ne­glected in re­cent years as peo­ple drift away from these ar­eas.

More and more farm­land is be­ing left unat­tended, and plants have grown among the aban­doned crops. These plots are of­ten close to res­i­den­tial ar­eas and pro­vide bears with food with cover from pry­ing eyes.

Iwate Uni­ver­sity Prof Toshiki Aoi, a re­searcher of wild an­i­mal con­trols, said bears are no longer afraid of peo­ple.

“With fewer hunters around, bears are no longer afraid to ap­proach peo­ple. The cur­rent sit­u­a­tion is ba­si­cally an open in­vi­ta­tion to bears to come into ar­eas where peo­ple live,” Aoi said.

How­ever, some ex­perts dis­agree that an acorn short­age has caused the bears to wan­der into res­i­den­tial ar­eas.

Manabu Miyazaki, who has filmed wild an­i­mals in the Cen­tral Ja­panese Alps, be­lieves the bears do not rely on acorns for their diet.

“Acorns aren’t the only food bears eat,” he said. “Bears are food con­nois­seurs who se­lect and eat only tasty nuts.”

In fact, an Ishikawa pre­fec­tural govern­ment anal­y­sis of the stom­ach con­tents of 141 bears cap­tured since Septem­ber 2004 found 55 had eaten per­sim­mons.

Com­ing across a bear is likely to be just as in­tim­i­dat­ing for the crea­ture as it is for a per­son.

Toshi­aki Shi­raishi, an of­fi­cial of Toyama Mu­nic­i­pal Fam­ily Park Zoo, said: “Usu­ally mak­ing a noise or say­ing ‘hey’ or some­thing will make a bear run away.”

But if a bear is ag­i­tated, tak­ing more de­fen­sive mea­sures could be re­quired.

“If you can’t es­cape, squat down and curl up into a ball,” Shi­raishi said. “Cov­er­ing your neck and the back of your head with your hands could help save you from a deadly wound.” – Yomi­uri Shim­bun/ McClatchy-Tribune In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices

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