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Bear attacks in Japan have never been this frequent, so what does climate change have to do with it?

Bear attacks in Japan have never been this frequent, so what does climate change have to do with it?

Tokyo, December 9, 2023 – The numbers are alarming: 218 attacks, 6 deaths in less than a year. What happens to Bear in JapanBecause of Attacks on humans Is it increasing? If you ask CNN In an article by Chris Lau and Francesca Año. 2023 – which is not over yet – isTerrible year. In 2020 – the last year for which data is available – there were 158 attacks, and since 2006 the number has never exceeded 200 attacks. Perhaps most telling is the number of attacks. view: In November alone there were 19,191, compared to 11,135 in 2022 and 12,743 in 2021. Statistically, this information is not enough to draw important trends, but experts and institutions confirm a growing phenomenon.

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Bears go to villages

The bears in Japan are venturing out even further Traditional habitatswhich is located in North of the countryIt is a fertile area, with abundant reserves of acorns, beech nuts, fruits and other insects, which represent the typical diet of these mammals. “this year Bears expand their territory And they’re going toApproaching human settlements in search of food“Maki Yamamoto, an associate professor at Nagaoka University of Technology in Niigata and a bear scientist, confirms to CNN.

Chris Lau and Francesca Año recount the case of Seiichi Sato, 57, from Iwato, in northeastern Japan, who was attacked by two specimens a half-hour walk from his shop. The Iwato area is the worst affected, so much so that Environment Minister Shintaro Ito officially spoke to local communities last month. “We are evaluating the possibility of providing emergency assistance” to “detect and capture bears living near human settlements.”

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Mothers defend cubs

By nature, bears found in Japan ( Brown bears in Hokkaidothe Asians a Hounsou) Do not approach humans. “They are basically shy animals that avoid people,” says Professor Koji Yamazaki of Tokyo Agricultural University, as quoted again by CNN. When they attack, they do so in defense of their offspring. Even in local news (mostly Trentino and Abruzzo), when a close encounter ends in aggression, we are often in the presence of A mother with her puppy. This is also the case with Sato, who saved himself from two bears, apparently mother and son, by climbing a tree.

What does climate change have to do with it?

But why did bears change their habits and leave their habitat? One of the accused is Climate change which may be involved Food shortage For plants. “When the harvest is poor, bears cannot store enough energy before hibernating, and they only eat mountain acorns, so they approach human settlements in search of fruits, chestnuts, persimmons, nuts, and agricultural products in general,” Yamamoto explains to CNN. “And the bears showed this.” “The year is greater in villages precisely because of the poor harvest of nuts from the beech tree, the bears’ favorite tree.” But what is the relationship between so-called climate change and the decline in walnut numbers? According to Tsutomu Mano, a researcher at the Hokkaido Research Organization, global warming may have had an “impact.” Negative impact on the flowering period of plants And on the activity of the insects responsible From vaccinationnecessary for Fruitfulness“.

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By sampling suburban food (urban waste), the bears then develop a “taste for human food scraps” and then return to find more.

Rural population migration

Another deciding factor could be demographic. there Japanese population And Among the oldest in the world With an average age of 48 years, younger people tend to move to larger cities. The result is the same Depopulation of rural areas The resulting “abandonment of cultivated lands” and the spread of uncultivated areas, which “makes it easier for bears to enter.”

Currently, the treatments taken are do-it-yourself. In Nagano Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, conservationists patrol the forest with dogs to scare away bears. In Akita, institutions have begun to offer Rewards By and Hunters: 5 thousand yen (35 euros) for each bear caught.