Incentive follows record number of bear attacks in northeastern prefecture.

Akita, in Japan’s northeastern Tohoku region, has seen a startling increase in the number of bear attacks that have taken place in the prefecture this year. Earlier this month, four senior citizens were attacked by a bear in the same day in Akita City, all requiring hospital treatment. As of Monday, 53 people have been attacked by bears in Akita, roughly three times more than the highest previous annual number.

In response, Akira governor Norihisa Satake called a press conference in which he declared a bounty on bears in the prefecture. “As a prefecture, we will be providing financial support to those who hunt bears,” Satake promised. Under the program, hunters will be paid 5,000 yen (US$33) for each bear they bag, with the money meant to offset transportation and ammunition expenses.

Ordinarily, when potentially dangerous wildlife shows up in human-inhabited areas in Japan, a dispatch request is sent to local hunting organizations, who are paid for their services. With Akita’s recreational bear-hunting season set to reopen next month, though, the bear bounty would financially incentivize hunting bears outside of settled areas as well.

Conflicts between bears and humanity in Akita Prefecture aren’t an entirely new development. The Akita breed of dog, adorable as it may look, was originally bred as a bear-hunting companion (and sometimes those instincts still kick in). A series of deadly bear attacks also occurred in Akita in 2016, coinciding with, of all things, the broadcast of a Tohoku-set anime TV series starring a friendly bear.

Regarding the bounty, Akita Prefecture does have annual limits on the number of bears that can be hunted within a single season, so the aim isn’t to completely eradicate the local bear population. Secondly, because obtaining/owning a gun in Japan is a complicated, expensive process, the intent of the 5,000-yen incentive is most likely to encourage experienced hunters to hunt more/in a wider area, not to convince inexperienced citizens to quit their day jobs and become full-time bear bounty hunters.

Source: NHK News Web via Jin, Asahi Shimbun
Top image: Pakutaso
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