Farmers are calculating the cost this week after bears raided their vineyards and nibbled on fine grapes worth thousands of dollars. Crop failures in many regions are on the rise.
But this news is even more frightening for the bears. More than 9,000 Asian black bears have been captured and killed since the beginning of 2019, according to the Ministry of the Environment, by far the highest rate since data started in 1950.
Fuminori Tsukidate, manager of a vineyard in Aomori prefecture, said the workers had noticed the grapes being eaten, but at first they were not sure whether to blame bears or pandas. One bear was trapped in an empty honey trap last year, but the sweeps continued. So the workers installed a security camera.
Tsukidate said he was “astonished”; to see an intruder – believed to be the animal’s son captured last year – in by flattening its six-meter-high fence with its front legs and climbing over it.
This bear scoffed at about 5,000 bunches of grapes, or about 900 pounds, even though he worked very carefully, pulled the grapes and left the stalks. However, that is only a small percentage of the total yield harvested around 45 tons, he said.
“It’s not too much of a loss, but our concern is the danger to our employees,” he said.
Bears have been spotted on the school grounds and have even wandered around a shopping mall in Ishikawa prefecture, central Japan in recent weeks. Another person injured four people, at one point crashed into a police car and punctured the tire with its claws. Once located, the bears were shot.
A 73-year-old farmer died after being attacked by a bear in Niigata prefecture on October 1, while an 83-year-old woman was attacked by a bear on her way home while picking chestnuts in Akita prefecture on October 1. October 7. She died a week later.
A shortage of fruit is pushing bears down from their mountain homes in search of food before they hibernate in winter, but that’s only half the story.
As Japan’s rural population shrank, people pulled off the foothills, which formed a buffer between bear’s mountain houses and the flat land where people lived.
“Those agricultural lands have been abandoned and have grown into forests,” said Shinsuke Koike, associate professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology. “In turn, they become part of the habitat of bears, wild boars and monkeys. Gradually, the habitat for wildlife is expanding into flat areas across Japan and towards flat areas just behind populated areas.
Bears are inherently shy, but once they discover a new source of food, they become daring, according to Koike. When faced with humans, they are often frightened and can harm people when they try to escape.
Grape-eating bears have also caught attention in California in recent years.
The Asian black bear – a close relative of the American black bear – lives in the mountainous regions from Japan to China and across the Himalayas to India. They are also called moon bears because of a white patch on their chest, which resembles a crescent moon. They are usually about 5 feet tall and a little over 200 pounds, but an adult male can double that.
They are classified as “vulnerable” on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list of threatened species.
A study by the Ministry of the Environment estimated Japan’s black bear population to be between 12,300 and 19,100 in 2011, but that number may have increased since then – at least until the murder. most recent.
Across East Asia, especially in China, more than 20,000 black bears are kept in small cages where their bile is collected for use in traditional medicine.
Environmentalists say buffer zones need to be created between the animal’s mountain habitats and human settlements.
“Over the past decade, the response has been to catch them as they show up in densely populated areas. But it’s an expected solution and looks like a mole, ”Koike said. “We definitely need to get rid of problem bears, but we also need to implement zero policy to create those problem bears immediately.”