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ALIVE News No.51~No.57 No.58~No.64
No.58 No.59 No.60

ALIVE 59 (11-12/04) P.5

Drastic measures are required for the protection of bears

Bear extermination in a haphazard way

In these days, black bears have been coming down into villages and towns, and lots of them are being exterminated. From 1st of April to 4th of October of 2004, the number of people who are reported to have encountered bears and been hurt was 73 in 18 prefectures. 179 bears are said to have been exterminated in Toyama , Ishikawa and Fukui Prefectures . In Japan , such incidents with bears have been occurring for several years. Freak of nature, lack of food, and environmental destruction of bears' habitat are pointed out to be the reasons for the bears to come into villages and towns. However, hardly any effort has been made to investigate what lies behind the behavior of bears or to take measures to solve the issues. When bears appear in front of people, we tend to think it happens out of the blue without really knowing why they do. And such incidents are treated as emergency circumstances and bears are exterminated then and there as a quick fix. When a large number of bears are killed once, the bear population remains reduced for some time. The problem is forgotten and no measure is taken or no research is done during that period, and after a while it starts all over again. If this continues the bear population will decrease and eventually

become extinct. Shooting of bears have been broadcasted on national networks this year. Isn't it about time that we should start working on long-term, thorough measures including scientific research, educating the residents, and preventive damage control.

Broad perspective is required in working on this issue

There are lots of problems in protecting bears. These problems cannot be solved just by insisting "don't kill them". We strongly support the promotion of "releasing of bears deep in the mountain" but that is possible only on condition that there exists natural environment, in which bears can survive. If such environment cannot be secured or recovered, there will be no place for bears to go back to.

On the other hand, residents can only request that bears should be exterminated. If there aren't any, measures to prevent damages from bears.

In this situation, there are no ways that have immediate effects, therefore, the most effective ways to solve this problem are to adopt the following measures and promote long-term protection.

Approaches at the local level

Recommendations to local students or volunteers are:

  1. Research on bears' habitat - Find out if the local environment can support bears' living, conditions of deforestation, proportion of planted-forest, harvesting in autumn.
  2. Research bears' range of activities and dietary habits - Find out where bears look for food, what they eat, and why they are drawn to human habitats.
  3. Damage control measures - Make sure to leave no food around where bears can get, put away leftover and garbage, and pick all.
  4. Education - Be prepared for bears' appearance as a matter of routine. Hold local meetings for measures with administrative officials and experts. Hand out leaflets on measures to local residents. Refer progressive examples of measures for bear control.

Approaches by researchers

We request that researchers should, in coordination with the local administration and residents, collect and analyze relevant data and consider possible measures as follows:

1.Collect individual data on captured bears

-   Identify the place, date, time of individual capture.

-   Record estimated age, weight, contents of the stomach and feces, etc. of each bear.

2.Research on bears' behavior and range of activities

-   Create a map of points where bears have been captured.

-   Include the locations of orchards and fruit-bearing trees in the above map.

-   Become familiarized with the vegetation map, including that of fruit-bearing plants and trees as well as the condition of harvest in the area.

-   Research the reasons of bear appearances by examining the above data.

Approaches by administration

1. Draw up measures for preventing damages by bears and provide support to researchers

- Provide financial support to researchers' efforts described above (1 & 2)

2. Improve the system of vermin capture

-  Stop issuing vermin capture permits throughout the year with disregard to the actual damages.

-  Request the presence of the police when firearms are required to ensure safety.

-   Food should not be put in the cages to attract bears so as not to have bears become familiar with people feeding them.

-  Specify the methods of treatment after the capture.

-  Mandate record-keeping of the above data by those who capture animals.

- Examine the possibility of releasing captured bears to forests based on the above data.

3. Establish councils to draw up measures at the municipal level

-   Work to share measures in cooperation with neighboring prefectures across which bears' habitat extends.

-   Establish liaison councils in cities and towns in order to share information and measures.

What we can do

-  Request to the central and local governments to fund for research on bears and measures for protecting them.

-  Participate in and support local measures.

-  Donate to NPOs that work for the protection of bears.

-  Request the central government and lawmakers to consolidate the policies concerning the protection of birds and animals such as conservation of natural forests and measures for environmental conservation within the realm of agriculture and forestry.