In search of food
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