Three bears that snuck into a tatami mat factory in northern Japan and were holed up inside for nearly a day have been captured and killed, according to town officials and media reports.
A patrolling official spotted the bears, believed to be a parent and two cubs, as they entered the factory on Wednesday morning in Misato, a town in Akita prefecture, where there have been a number of reported bear attacks in or near residential areas.
An owner of the factory said he saw the bears outside but never thought they would come inside.
Town officials and police officers rushed to the site, wearing helmets and carrying shields, to keep watch. Local hunters used fire crackers to try to force the intruders out, without success. They then set up a pair of cages at the entrance of the factory and waited overnight.
On Thursday morning, the bears were trapped in the cages, the cubs in one and the adult in another. Television footage showed the cages being taken out of the factory and lifted on to a pickup truck using a crane.
Misato issued a message later on Thursday to residents to say that all three bears had been captured. Media reports said the bears were later killed for fear that they would return to the town and pose a threat if released.
Akita’s governor, Norihisa Satake, who had sounded the alarm over the increasing numbers of marauding bears in the prefecture, told reporters on Thursday he planned to seek central government support, including revising wildlife protection laws to allow the use of hunting guns in residential areas.
“Otherwise we cannot eliminate bears in residential areas,” Satake said. “The problem is growing around the country.”
Akita logged a record 30 cases of bear attacks on people in 2023, increasingly in residential areas. Experts say the bears come down from forests looking for food due to a scarcity of acorns, their staple food. Officials warned residents not to leave rubbish outside, and advised hikers to carry bells to make noise and use anti-bear spray or lie flat face-down in case of an encounter with bears.
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This article was first published by The Guardian on 6 October 2023. Lead Image: A bear in Shibecha in northern Japan. Akita prefecture logged 30 cases of bear attacks on people in 2023 alone. Photograph: Town of Shibecha/AFP/Getty Images.