Niigata Prefecture heightens bear alert after woman dies from attack
Japan Today -- Oct 13
The prefectural government of Niigata issued a special warning about wild bear encounters on Monday, a day after a woman died from injuries sustained in an attack when she was working on a farm earlier in the month.

Takako Saito, a 73-year-old resident of Sekikawa village, some 250 kilometers north of Tokyo, died Sunday -- the first death resulting from a bear attack in the prefecture since October 2001 -- after being found by a neighbor lying unconscious and bleeding heavily from her head and face on her property on Oct 1.

Local officials and police will increase patrols while urging residents to be extra vigilant by handing out fliers with recommendations about bear safety.

As of Sunday, Saito was among nine people attacked since April in Niigata Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, according to prefectural government officials.

The prefecture is home to a population of Asian black bears and has received more than 700 reports from locals who spotted the animals or traces of their presence between April and September, officials added, a record number.

Worse than normal availability of wild tree nuts, particularly beech nuts, that make up a large part of the bears' diet in the mountains is believed to be why they are venturing closer to areas inhabited by humans in search of food ahead of their winter hibernation, experts say.

Also behind the recent trend of increased encounters with bears is that villages in or near bear habitats are becoming increasingly depopulated due to the aging of the communities, said bear authority Hideo Miguchi, a Niigata University professor.

Niigata Prefecture also notes that more and more people are encroaching into bear habitat when hiking or mushroom picking, increasing the number of interactions and sightings in the spring to fall seasons.

山形県で畑で作業をしていた70代の女性が熊に襲われてけがをしました。  11日午前9時50分ごろ、山形県川西町の無職・佐藤房子さん(72)が自宅北側の畑で1人でサツマイモの収穫をしていたところ、背後から近付いてきた体長約1.5メートルの熊に気付きました。佐藤さんは驚いて尻もちをつき、熊を足で追い払おうとした際に右足を引っかかれました。命に別状はないということです。山形県内で人が熊に襲われる被害は今年に入ってこれで4件目になります。また、新潟県南魚沼市でも女性2人が相次いで熊に襲われて、けがをする被害が起きています。
News sources: Japan Today, ANNnewsCH
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