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Wild bears in Japan

Japan Black Bear Institute (NPO)
Kazuhiko Maita

ALIVE News 1 Dec 2001

In addressing and resolving recent bear issues, it is important to examine each issue separately. Such issues include; spring bear hunt (pest control), indiscriminate capture using snare traps, and inappropriate assignment policy of the wildlife protection agents.

1.Spring Bear Hunt

According to ' Wildlife Protection and Hunting law ', spring bear hunt is defined as a measure of preventive pest control and is carried out routinely, especially in areas of heavy snow as it is easy to find black bears when there is still lots of snow left or footprints of bears on the snow Whether this practice is done from necessity and with appropriate measures is, however, rather questionable.

For one thing, bears are hunted indiscriminately and well within their habitat areas. Also, when a mother bear is killed during the hibernation period, orphaned cubs cannot survive on their own and eventually die as well.

In heavy snow areas on the Japan Sea side, spring bear hunt is permitted in April and May, pest control from June through November 15, and sport hunting also from June through February 15, which puts almost ceaseless hunting pressure on bears. One of the reasons of this is suspected to be to obtain gall bladders, which collect a lot of money.

2.Snare Traps

Trapping is usually done secretly and it is hard to obtain details of this practice. Illegal snare traps are also used a lot in Korea and Japan Black Bear Institute, together with a local conservation group, removed 7,000 of them there. In Japan this trap is used mainly to capture wild boars in areas

of a relatively little snow.

This trap is easy to handle and a person can set up many traps. So capture can be indiscriminate.

Bear hunt is prohibited in 17 prefectures in the western Japan, but this trap is used for capturing wild boars. Often bears get trapped in it, too, and when they do, they become violent and dangerous, so they get shot and killed.

As a person can set up a lot of these traps, they are left without proper management and some animals get mutilated. During the research conducted in the western Chugoku between 1990 through 1998, of 64 bears that we checked, 2 bears were three-legged and another one got away from a trap leaving a wrist in it.

3.Wild life Protection Agent System

Wildlife protection agents, who promote proper observance of wildlife protection and hunting law, are part-time municipal government employees and are usually hired at the local level. There were 3,360 assigned as wildlife protection agents as of 1998 and 99 percent of them possess a hunting

license, the reason of which is that hunters have thorough knowledge on wildlife. Although 7 percent of them are members of wildlife

conservation/protection organizations as well, it is not in accordance with the spirit of the law that those who are supposed to supervise are also the

ones to be supervised. Besides members of wildlife conservation/protection organizations also have extensive knowledge on wildlife. So this situation needs to be straightened out.