Karuizawa's Bear Problems
Every summer in Karuizawa, Asiatic Black Bears (Ursus thibetanus)
venture into the town looking for garbage. Summer is a difficult season
for bears because there is less natural food in the mountains for
them to eat. At the same time, the town of Karuizawa is full of people
coming from all over Japan and from overseas to spend the summer here.
More people means more garbage. Garbage is literally overflowing throughout
the town and the bears can easily get food if only they dare come
|Large accumulation of garbage in the
Garbage is not the only unnatural food which attracts bears. Bears
come for human food and pet food stored in sheds, outside refrigerators
and freezers. They also come for the grease traps outside of kitchens.
On the south side of Karuizawa, we receive reports on corn and apiary
damages every year.
|A bear eating garbage
Bears also cause damage trying to get to natural food sources. Bees
occasionally build nests inside the walls of houses. There are times
when bears will break the walls to get at these beehives. They visit
the yards of houses to dig up anthills in the ground or decaying timber.
Normally, bears are scared of people and they try to avoid us. However,
when they repeatedly venture into town to get food, they grow accustomed
to the presence of humans, and in the end, it is possible that they
might harm people with the intention of getting food.
Traditional Bear Management
|A garbage collection site damaged by a bear
In many places in the world, bears are moved or killed when they
cause problems. This is one way of solving the problem, however
it does not always work. Different bears start coming in, or the
same bears come back to the same spot. Often when a bear is killed
in an attempt to manage the problem, people do not know for sure
that particular bear was the one causing the problems.
NPO picchio's Bear Management
NPO picchio is trying different approaches. We think removing
the root causes of bear appearances in town is very important
in addition to dealing with the bears themselves. We first find
out which bear is causing the problem and then apply non-lethal
management methods whenever possible to the problems in Karuizawa.
We started the scientific research and management of bears in
1998. The town of Karuizawa approved our management methods and
this work has been Karuizawa's commission to picchio since the
What we are trying to do in our bear management program is to
teach bears to act as wild bears do. We teach them to move away
from people and avoid residential districts by making them feel
uncomfortable. At the same time, we also teach people how not
to attract bears around the house, how to secure bear attractants,
how to safely enjoy being outdoors in bear country and so on.
Also it is important to restore their natural habitat.
|A captured raccoon
Every land has a unique ecosystem, in which exists a sensitive balance between
animals and plants. When an alien species enters an area, it affects
this balance. Introduced species like black bass and oneseed burr
cucumber have been encroaching all over Japan. And in Karuizawa,
the raccoon has become a problem. Raccoons cause the loss of native
species by consuming them and competitive exclusion. They can possibly
carry infectious diseases and damage agricultural crops.
NPO picchio has started a raccoon control program to conserve Karuizawa's ecosystem.