17. Jul 2022 | Nature

Hokkaido Trivia – Wildlife Needs Social Distancing, Too

An old couple was attacked by a brown bear just a few days ago in a town in southern Hokkaido.  According to the data by the Hokkaido Prefectural Government, 12 people were injured/killed by brown bears in 2021.  The number is increasing each year, not to mention the bears that wander out into towns and big cities like Sapporo.

Brown bears have dense population in Shiretoko National Park, northeast Hokkaido.  At the Shiretoko peninsula, the distance between the mountain range and the ocean is only 7km, which is near enough for the brown bears to travel in half a day in search for food.  Not only the rich forest but also these rich feeding places have increased the number of bears. 

I agree it’s exciting to see wild animals nearby.  But whether you’re traveling on cars or hiking in the mountains, don’t stop and approach them!  Brown bears can be as huge as 430kg and can run at 50km/hr.  Being in a car is not at all safe from any brown bears that are protecting their cubs or in search for food.  Always remember that we are the ones visiting the homes of wildlife, and we need to be humble.

Moreover, the decrease of their favorite food in the mountains (= acorns) and the increasing number of tourists who give food to the wild animals have changed the mannerism of brown bears as well as other animals to rely on human community for food.

Some years ago, a tourist gave just one piece of sausage to a wild bear (known to the local nature preservation group as a young “gentle girl”) and resulted in having to kill the poor bear who learned to approach humans to get food.

I write this because I was at the Shiretoko National Park last week and I happened to see a tourist stopping his car and taking pictures of a cub who was barely 2 meters away from the car!  Mama bear must have been nearby. 

Remember: Your safety is bear’s safety…
…and enjoy your outdoor activities in Hokkaido!

A nice tool to know your distance 🙂