Wild bears attack several people in northeast Japan

TOKYO — Japanese authorities have warned residents Saturday to be aware of wild bears in the country’s northeast after several people were attacked, including police officers.

The bears, measuring about 50 centimeters in height, were seen in the area, including Akita and Fukushima Prefectures.

Two police officers were attacked Saturday in the city of Kazuno in Akita while recovering the body of a missing man, according to Japanese media reports. The man had gone hunting for bamboo shoots in the mountains a few days earlier where he was found dead in the area with gash wounds. It remains unclear if he died due to a bear attack.

The officers are in serious condition, though not life-threatening, reports said.

In response, some wooded areas have been closed off in Kazuno “for an indefinite time,” officials said in a statement.

News footage showed police officers putting up signs warning people to stay out of mountainous areas where the bears were sighted.

Over the weekend, patrol cars were dispatched together with a helicopter search to locate the bears.

Akita Prefectural Police have urged people to keep bells and other noise-producing devices on hand to scare the bears away in case of an encounter, and not to go out at night.

Thousands of Asiatic black bears live in the wild throughout Japan. Attacks have risen as the borders blur between the bears’ habitats and people’s dwellings. The scarcity of acorns, berries and other food, possibly connected to climate change, is also blamed for the surge in bear encounters.

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