Tokyo – Human flesh and hair were found inside the stomach of a
bear suspected of attacking at least one of four people in northern Japan who
apparently died from such assaults, officials said on Tuesday.
Bear attacks on humans are not unusual in mountainous Akita
prefecture on Japan's main island of Honshu, but fatal ones are, with only
eight tallied from 1979 through last year.
Last month, however, three men – two in their seventies and one in
his sixties – died in apparent attacks while harvesting bamboo shoots in three
separate incidents in a mountain forest.
The body of a fourth victim, a badly mauled 74-year-old woman, was
discovered on Friday. The woman had reportedly been picking wild plants.
Hunters killed a bear just 10m from the spot where her remains
Hideki Abe, an Akita prefectural official, told AFP that human
remains and hair samples were discovered inside the bear's stomach on Monday.
Abe described the body part as "a piece of human flesh,"
without elaborating, though stressed it remained to be determined if that
particular bear was responsible for the woman's death.
"Two thirds of the stomach was filled with bamboo
shoots," he said, suggesting that little human flesh was likely consumed
by the bear and that it was not the only one involved in the attacks.
Bamboo shoots are a staple food for bears at this time of year,
while Japanese go into the mountains to harvest the popular seasonal plants to
eat or sell.
The prefecture has not captured any bears in traps set up on Friday
in Kazuno city, where the mountain is located, Abe added.
Prefecture and city officials have told locals to stay away but
some are not heeding the warnings.
Police and firefighters are patrolling the mountains daily
encouraging anyone found there to leave, according to the prefecture.