”It’s like they’re saying the money is more important than our lives” says frustrated hunter.

Japan has very little in the way of dangerous wildlife, meaning that you’re about as unlikely to be a victim of a violence in rural areas as you are in the country’s famously safe cities. However, Hokkaido, the island that serves as Japan’s northernmost prefecture, is home to a sizable bear population.

When bears are spotted in populated areas where their presence is considered a danger to residents, towns will often enlist the help of a local hunting enthusiast club to trap or exterminate the animals. So when there was a bear sighting in the Hokkaido town of Shimamaki on the night of September 20 at around 9:30, and then another sighting a few hours later at the town’s port where a bear was ransacking unattended fishing boats for food, residents expected hunters, sporting their distinctive orange vests and caps, to arrive on the scene.

▼ Video of the bear sightings, with the animal (or possibly animals) estimated to be about two meters (6.6 feet) in length.

However, no hunters came, and instead it was only the regular police who responded to the reports. It turns out the city is in the middle of a dispute with the hunting organization over how much the hunters should be compensated.

Ordinarily, each hunter is to be paid 30,000 yen (US$270) per dispatch. Since the end of July, Shimamaki’s total tab for bear-related dispatches and associated fees has grown to 11.56 million yen (US$104,000), but the city council has not authorized the release of the funds.

“The council is not saying we won’t pay the money,” says city councilman Hatsu Sakashita. “But we want to differentiate between compensation for emergency responses and ordinary patrols, so we’d like to revise the payment amount. This is something that the city and hunting club need to discuss together in order to resolve,”

In response, a member of the hunting club retorted “I wonder if the city council members actually came out here and saw what we do during the nights and days we get called out. We put our lives on the line, and it’s like they’re saying the money is more important than our lives.”

▼ Hunters on a night dispatch

In the meantime, the city is relying on its police force to keep its eyes out for the bear or bears, and has advised citizens to be extra-cautious and aware of their surroundings. Considering an incident not too long ago where a number of elderly people living in rural Akita Prefecture were eaten by a bear, plus the animals’ instincts to seek out food wherever they can find it, hopefully the city’s current animal control efforts will be enough to keep its residents safe.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/Hokkaido News UHB via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Mousai