Heightened anxiety could be behind a slew of bear sightings in Sapporo

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In this photo taken on April 21, 2022, a sign urges caution against bears in the Higashi district of Sapporo following the sighting of a bear-like animal. (Mainichi/Takumi Taniguchi)

SAPPORO – A series of bear sightings have been reported in Sapporo since late April, but traces of animals actually roaming the city – such as footprints and droppings – have not been confirmed on many sites, suggesting heightened fear. among residents, fueled in part by multiple bear attacks in 2021, may cause them to see brown bears that aren’t actually there.

Police received a call on the night of April 19 from a woman in her twenties saying she had seen “a bear-like animal passing by on a street” in the Kita district of Sapporo. Since then, a series of bear sightings across the city have been reported to authorities. According to the Hokkaido Prefectural Police, 23 bear sighting reports had been filed with police in the northernmost prefecture as of the morning of May 6. In the Higashi district of Sapporo, three primary and secondary schools near the bear sighting site canceled classes after three sightings. have been reported.

The number of bear sightings in Hokkaido totaled 2,197 in 2021, up 381 from the previous year, with casualties, including deaths, rising to 12 from three in the previous year, two records. Similarly, Sapporo recorded the second highest number of bear sightings in 2021, while four residents of the Higashi district were injured in bear attacks.

However, in the majority of cases reported in 2022, the animals were not spotted by anyone other than those who originally reported the sightings. In these cases, no bears have been captured by security cameras in the neighborhood, and some have pointed out that the reports may be the result of the animals’ “illusions”. This suggests a cycle in which a sense of anxiety leads to “bear” sightings and the increased number of reports further fuels people’s fear.

Tsutomu Mano, a research specialist at the Hokkaido Research Organization, says sharing information can help alleviate residents’ anxiety. Just before the 2021 bear attack in the Higashi district where four people were attacked, footprints believed to belong to a brown bear were spotted on the bank of the Ishikari River just past the city limits. This information, however, has not been properly shared between local governments.

In addition to identifying and observing problem animals, it is crucial to improve the management of watercourses, windbreaks and irrigation canals that serve as a path for them when they enter the areas. urban areas by hiding from humans. However, there is no framework for central and local governments to share information covering wider areas.

Mano told the Mainichi Shimbun, “Brown bears who have learned that humans do nothing do not hesitate to come to town. Authorities must work together with a shared sense of crisis before brown bear attacks become a daily occurrence.”

(Japanese original by Takumi Taniguchi, Hokkaido News Department)

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