Brown bear that had been roaming around residential area of Sapporo shot and killed

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 announced Wednesday.

According to the Sapporo government, members of a local hunting association found a bear in the mountains in the city’s Minami Ward and shot it. Experts later determined that it was likely the same bear that had recently been spotted in residential areas.

Residents were frightened of the 1.5-meter-tall 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.

“I can’t sleep at all at night,” said Eiko Sugimoto, a 90-year-old resident in Minami Ward, before the bear was captured.

Sugimoto said she opened the door of her home to take her trash out on 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.

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.

As children at a nearby school are soon set to return 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 obon holiday, when Japanese honor their ancestors.

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 a rapidly aging population. The bear then started going into residential areas in search of more food.

Before the bear was killed, Tsutomu Mano, an expert on brown bears from the Hokkaido Research Organization, said he doesn’t believe the animal is aggressive.

“(It) probably learned that humans don’t attack them and are harmless,” Mano said, adding that similar situations are occurring repeatedly and it is urgent to create a system to deal with them, 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 is no core staff from the public sector to do so,” he said.

Also on Wednesday in Akita Prefecture, a 68-year-old woman was attacked by a bear at around 3:30 a.m. while delivering newspapers in the city of Daisen.

Police said Kazuko Kusanagi was attacked by the bear, 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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