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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