A brown bear has been roaming around a residential district in Sapporo on the northernmost main island of Hokkaido since the beginning of August, wandering into gardens and eating fruit even in broad daylight.
Residents are frightened of the 1.5-meter-tall bear which seems used to human presence and is unafraid of patrol sirens.
(Bear pictured in a Sapporo residential area on Aug. 8, 2019.)[Photo courtesy of the Hokkaido prefectural police]
"I can't sleep at all at night," said Eiko Sugimoto, a 90-year-old resident in the city's South Ward.
Sugimoto said she opened her home's door to take her trash out on Monday morning but upon hearing a police car's call that a bear was out, immediately went back inside and locked the door.
Isao Honma, a 76-year-old resident, was chagrined to find that the bear had devoured almost all of his corn.
"It was almost harvest time and my grandchildren were looking forward to eating it," he said.
Summer vacation will be ending soon for the children at a nearby school, making it even more urgent to catch the bear by then.
The city set a trap Saturday by trying to tempt it with corn and pears but so far has had no luck. It has requested a local hunting association to help.
It has also asked people to bring back food offerings made at gravesites during the "obon" season, when Japanese people honor their ancestors.
The city believes that the bear first ate fruit from nearby orchards that was left untended due to a rapidly aging and declining population. The bear then started going into residential areas looking for more food.
Tsutomu Mano, an expert on brown bears from the Hokkaido Research Organization, said the animal is not aggressive toward humans.
"They probably learned that humans don't attack them and are harmless," Mano said, adding that the similar occurrences keep repeating and it is urgent to create a system to deal with them, given that members of local hunting associations are aging rapidly.
"The local hunting associations are always the ones who are expected to resolve the issue, and there is no core staff from the public sector to do so," he said.