Bears Make Their Case for Climate Change in Japan

As if they didn't have enough problems in Japan, where movies suggest a giant lizard periodically destroys Tokyo, now the Japanese have another creature to add to their to-fear list: bears. At least 80 people have been wounded in bear attacks--and four killed--just between the months of April and September. And what's to blame for this season's bear madness? Climate change, of course.

Well, it's a bit more complicated than headlnes suggest. A Japanese official, Tatsuo Sato, said that "the extremely hot summer and other climatic factors may have led to a shortage of acorns or nuts in woodlands this year." Also, changing land use patterns--the destruction of some habitats, and the restoration of others--have reduced buffer zone between residential areas and the bears' natural habitat.

Even this late in the season, the brushes with bears have been continuing. Cops pursued a bear today in Fukuchiyama after it turned up in a residential area. And a train struck a bear on Tuesday in central Japan.

Traveling to the Land of the Rising Sun soon, and need tips? A Hokkaido official recently doled out some advice to residents: "In the unfortunate case of a bear encounter, all we should do is look steadily into its eyes and move away slowly without running."

And for heavens' sake, don't start a forest fire or have a pic-a-nic.

[Image: Flickr user RickC]

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