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Bear and 2 cubs captured, killed after sneaking into factory in Japan amid growing number of reported attacks

Three bears that snuck into a tatami mat factory in northern Japan and holed up inside for nearly a day have been captured, according to town officials. Local media reported the animals were later euthanized.

A patrolling town official spotted the bears, believed to be a parent and two cubs, as they walked into a tatami factory Wednesday morning in Misato, a town in Akita prefecture, where there's been a growing number of reported bear attacks in or near residential areas.

An owner of the tatami factory said he saw the bears walking outside but never thought they would come inside.

Town officials and police officers rushed to the site, each wearing a helmet and carrying a shield, and kept watch. Local hunters used fire crackers to try to scare the intruders out, without success. They later set up a pair of cages at the entrance of the tatami factory and waited overnight.

On Thursday morning, the bears were trapped in cages, two cubs in one and the adult in another. Television footage showed the cages being taken out of the factory and placed on a pickup truck with a crane.

Misato issued an urgent message later Thursday to residents that all three bears had been captured. Media reports said the bears were later killed for fear that they would return to town and pose harm again if released.

An Ussuri brown bear and a cub eat salmon after catching it from the beach of Sea of Okhotsk near the town of Rausu on September 28, 2019, in Hokkaido, Japan. Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Akita has logged a record 30 cases of bear attacks on people in 2023 alone, increasingly in residential areas. Experts say they come down from forests looking for food due to a scarcity of acorns, their staple food. Officials warned residents not to leave garbage outside, and advised hikers to carry bells to make noise, and use anti-bear spray or lie flat face-down in case of an encounter with bears.

Across all of the country, bear-caused deaths and injuries from April through July hit a record high of 54, the Japan Times reported this week, citing the country's environment ministry.

In August, hunters in Hokkaido, Japan's sparsely populated main northern island, killed an infamous brown bear nicknamed "Ninja" that attacked at least 66 cows.

In May, authorities believe a man was mauled and decapitated by a brown bear in Hokkaido after a human head was found near a lake.

In 2021 four people were killed in incidents involving bears and 10 were injured -- a record number. That year, a wild brown bear in Hokkaido injured four people and disrupted flights at an airport before being shot and killed.

Brown bears roam mainly in forests, but experts say they have been increasingly spotted in inhabited areas looking for food, especially during warm weather. In 2020, a town plagued by wild bears in Hokkaido installed robotic wolves to howl at the animals and scare them off.

Japanese town uses "Monster Wolf" robots to deter bears 01:14

The AFP contributed to this report.

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