Japan Data

Bear Attacks in Japan Cause Six Fatalities in 2023

Environment Society

From April to November in Japan, there were 193 bear attacks recorded, leading to six fatalities.

The Ministry of the Environment presented a report to an expert panel in January 2024, stating there had been 19,192 sightings of Asian black bears in the seven-month period from April through the end of October in 2023. This was the highest number on record, surpassing the 18,000 sightings reported in 2020. Generally, sightings peak in June and then fall until October, which in many years, would be when the number would start rising again. However, this year, sightings have been increasing earlier in September and nearly 6,000 were reported for October alone.

Number of Bear Sightings

By region, Tōhoku accounted for approximately 60% of sightings with 11,163. Of those, 40% were in just the two prefectures of Iwate and Akita, with 5,158 and 3,000 respectively. Within this region, the number of sightings has been increasing since August in Iwate, Akita, Miyagi, and Yamagata Prefectures. The Ministry of the Environment considers this to be the impact of poor beechnut crops, which bears feed on in autumn.

Number of Asian Black Bear Sightings by Region in 2023

From April 2023 through the end of November, there were 193 bear attacks, leading to 212 injuries to people, of which 6 were fatalities. This marked the highest number of attacks since the ministry started to compile monthly figures in 2006. In recent years, there were also more than 100 each in 2019 and 2020, with the attacks peaking in October.

Number of Asian Black Bear Sightings by Region in 2023

By region, Tōhoku was prominent with 138 attacks. This was more than double the 58 cases in 2017, at that time the highest number of attacks in the past 15 years.

More than 80% of the attacks in the months of April through June occurred in forests and on farmland. However, roughly 40% for September and October were near people’s homes. This was particularly the case for Akita Prefecture, where in a three-month period from September to November, over 40 attacks occurred not in mountains and forests, but in people’s spheres of daily life.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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