On the morning of October 31, on the Japanese Island of Hokkaido, a man with a knife fought off a brown bear as it attacked his two companions. It seems likely the attack was prompted because the bear was defending the food cache it had made of the body of a hiker it had killed on October 29. From mainichi.jp:
SAPPORO — A man fought off a brown bear using a knife after he and two others were attacked by the animal while climbing Mount Daisengen in a Hokkaido town on the morning of Oct. 31.
Two men in their 40s suffered minor injuries including scratches on their sides and necks, as well as bites on the legs inflicted by the 1.7-meter-tall bear, but all three descended the mountain under their own power.
According to the Hokkaido Prefectural Government’s brown bear countermeasures office, the three men all reside in Hokkaido. The last person walking in a single file line was attacked by the animal at around 9:30 a.m. — some 2 1/2 hours after the three left the trailhead. Another person drove off the bear but two sustained injuries.
When the authorities investigated the site of the attack on the three hikers, they were surprised to find two bodies. They found a brown bear carcass near by, and the body of Kanato Yanaike, a 22-year-old man. From mainchi.jp:
Hokkaido Prefectural Police’s Matsumae Police Station announced on Nov. 4 that DNA analysis confirmed the body is of Kanato Yanaike, 22, who had gone missing while on a mountain climbing trip. The cause of death was hemorrhagic shock. A brown bear carcass was found near the body, and the police are investigating on the assumption that he was attacked by the bear.
According to the police station, Yanaike had told an acquaintance that he was going mountain climbing on Oct. 29, and his car was found left at the starting point of a trail on the 1,072-meter-high mountain. The location where the body was discovered is close to the site where three other men were attacked by a brown bear on Oct. 31, leaving two of them injured. The men resisted the attack with a knife and chased the brown bear away. Authorities including Hokkaido police are investigating the latest case as a possible series of attacks by the same bear.
While it is possible there were two bears, one killed by the other, it is unlikely. Brown bears (essentially the same as our grizzly/brown bears) have been killed by humans with knives before. The journalists in Japan were not interested in the model of the knife. It was called a hunting knife, so it probably had a fixed blade. Bear attacks are at record levels in Japan. Most of them are done by the Asian black bear, a close relative of the North American black bear. From asahi.com:
At least 177 people have been attacked by bears nationwide this year as of Oct. 31, the highest number since record-keeping started in 2006, according to figures from prefectural governments compiled by The Asahi Shimbun.
The previous record was 158 in 2020.
Humans have been attacked by bears in 18 prefectures this year. Akita reported the largest number of victims, 61, followed by 41 in Iwate, 13 in Fukushima and 11 in Aomori.
Two people were killed in Iwate, and one each in Hokkaido, Toyama and Nagano.
The Japanese population is declining. Most Japanese prefer to live in urban areas. More and more rural villages face declining populations and abandoned farms. From ucanews.com;
The increasing number of bear attacks in Japan is a direct consequence of depopulation. As rural villages gradually vanish from the map bears are moving into these abandoned areas. Their return to what was once their native habitat is a stark reminder of nature’s power to reclaim abandoned spaces.
This isn’t merely wildlife resurgence. It’s a matter of public safety. As humans retreat and villages disappear, the bear population takes over, bringing these majestic but potentially dangerous creatures into closer proximity to people.
Dr. Mariko Abe of the Nature Conservation Society of Japan disagrees. From scmp.com:
People need to find ways to coexist with bears and other wild animals, said Dr Mariko Abe of The Nature Conservation Society of Japan.
“Human habitation is spreading further into rural areas, which is the natural environment of these animals, so confrontations are inevitable,” she said. “I do not agree with bears that enter suburban districts being killed, although I know that many places do try to capture them and release them in more remote areas.
According to the Guardian, a Japanese bear expert believes the Asian black bear population has tripled since 2012, from 15,000 to 44,000. The Hokkaido brown bear population has doubled since 1990 to about 12,000 today.
About Dean Weingarten:
Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering, and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30 year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.