Japan may allow hunters to fire on bears in residential, commercial areas

An expert panel at the Japanese government has drafted a proposal that hunters be allowed to open fire on bears in residential and other populated areas without orders by police.

The Environment Ministry says the number of individuals mauled by bears nationwide in the year through last March reached 219, a record high.

It adds that 67 percent of such attacks last December occurred in places where people were living and working.

The general public in Japan have to rely on hunters to shoot bears.

But those with hunting licenses are basically banned by law from using firearms in housing and commercial districts because of high risks.

And they can use such weapons in those areas only if they receive police orders or determine that emergency responses are required.

Against this backdrop, an Environment Ministry panel drafted a proposal calling for legal revisions to permit hunting license holders to fire on bears in those areas without police orders.

The panel says the permission should be given to allow hunters to deal with situations where they see a danger of harm or when bears stay inside buildings.

The ministry says procedures for necessary legal revisions are expected to begin after the panel decides its proposal in July.