Kushiro Hokkaido Man Killed by Bear
Close to 11 a.m. on April 10, a resident of Kushiro City in Hokkaido who had traveled to the mountains to pick edible flora with his wife was attacked by a brown bear and died shortly after. Though his wife called emergency services as soon as she heard her husband scream and witnessed him being attacked by a “black, bear-like animal”, he was pronounced dead at the scene. The cause of death appeared to be the crushing of his head and throat.
Though the emergency services who arrived at the scene were unable to locate the animal responsible, this is unfortunately not an especially unexpected occurrence. Experts warn that bears that have just woken up from hibernation are the most likely to encounter humans, as they wander further afield in search of food. Adding to this peril is the fact that brown bear populations are on the rise in Hokkaido, which increases the risk of an encounter.
In the wake of this unfortunate incident, a representative of the Hokkaido Hunting Association expressed his anguish at it happening despite reports of bear sightings in the area and went on to share advice for bear encounters in general.
First, he dismissed the effectiveness of bear bells, small bells that jingle as you walk, and said that their only true purpose was to give their wearers peace of mind. In actuality he says that the bells ring so quietly they tend not to be audible to bears until it’s too late, meaning a better course of action is to walk loudly and speak in strong, clear voices to ensure that a bear doesn’t accidentally stumble upon you.
Of course, he concedes, this doesn’t stop bears from encountering you anyway. And in that instance, the only advice he can really offer is to be willing to fight for your life.
While tools like bear repellents can be useful, it’s unlikely that in the moment you will have the presence of mind or quick reflexes to pull out the safety pin to activate one. It would be better, if the bear looks likely to attack, to pierce its eyes or mouth with something you can manipulate from afar like a long stick or ski pole. At any rate, you should be willing to risk injury if it means you can get out with your life intact—bears are not meant to be trifled with.
There have been reports of a new generation of brown bears in Hokkaido that don’t hibernate, or at least can interrupt their hibernation in order to forage for food. As the odds of surviving an encounter with a brown bear are so low, please heed any warnings in your area, especially if you insist on venturing out to hike or forage for wild flowers this spring.