Bear Attacks on the Rise in Japan

TOKYO, Oct. 20 (UPI) — Bear attacks in Japan, and sightings of the animals, have increased this year as climate change drives them from their habitats seeking food, researchers say.

At least four people were killed and 80 wounded in bear attacks between April and September, already topping last year’s total of 64 attacks, Japanese broadcaster NHK said.

On Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, authorized hunters have shot and killed some 400 bears near human-populated areas after two people were mauled to death earlier this year, a local official said.

In mountainous areas of Fukushima prefecture northeast of Tokyo more than 150 bears were shot dead after they invaded residential areas, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported.

Wildlife experts say a record heat wave this summer may have affected the bears’ natural food sources and pushed them into foraging in more densely populated farming and residential areas.

“The extremely hot summer and other climatic factors may have led to a shortage of acorns or nuts in woodlands this year,” Tatsuo Sato, an official of the Fukushima prefectural government, said.

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