At least 37 people in Japan attacked by bears since April

Japanese authorities say at least 37 people in 16 prefectures were attacked by wild bears from April through July 3 and two of them were killed.

The authorities say 39 people were attacked by bears during the same period in fiscal 2023 when the number of bear attacks for the whole year hit a record high.
In fiscal 2017, 40 people were attacked during the same period.

The total number is expected to hit its worst level to date in this fiscal year, which began in April.

The Japanese environment ministry says municipal governments nationwide have already received more reports about bear sightings and traces than they get in a usual year. In April and May, the local governments received 3,032 reports, an increase of nearly 500 from 2,567 a year ago.

Professor Koike Shinsuke of the graduate school of Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology says the wild bear population is expected to increase and their habitat areas will likely expand in the long run.

He said it won't be surprising if serious damage from bear attacks, as seen in Akita Prefecture last year, occurs elsewhere in Japan.

He advises local residents to remove possible baits, such as crops and garbage, before the number of bear attacks rises in autumn.

He also said the animal's migration paths should be blocked to keep them away from areas where people live.

Some prefectures, from Hokkaido to central Japan, have been issuing bear alerts and warnings. Officials are advising people to check information on sightings of the animals on the prefectures' websites to avoid encountering bears.