Japan: Four dead after spate of bear attacks

  • 13/06/2016

People in Japan's north are being advised to stay away from mountain forests, following the death of four people in three weeks from bear attacks.

Police in Akita were initially unable to identify victim Tsuwa Suzuki, 74, after she was thought to be mauled by a bear in mountain forest over the weekend.

According to a local broadcaster, she had gone into the area to pick wild edible plants but did not return.

It comes after three men died from their injuries in separate attacks in the same area.

Japanese media said they were foraging for bamboo shoots when they encountered the animals.

A local vet says it is possible that the attacks were perpetrated by the same bear.

"After tasting human flesh [for the first time], the bear may have realised that it can eat them," Takeshi Komatsu told Kyodo News.

The amount of bear sightings, too, has risen dramatically, with over 1200 reported for 2016 so far, almost twice the number of last year.

The reason for bear attacks is usually attributed to food shortages, which forces the animals to head into villages and human inhabited areas.

But this increase is likely to be due to an abundance in beechnuts, which has resulted in more bear cubs surviving to adolescence.