According to yesterday's Japan Times, there must have been at least 400 sightings in the whole of Hokkaido this year - all shot dead. That's about 13% of the Hokkaido bear population wiped out in one year, leaving about 2,700 living bears.
Somehow, though, "We should be fully aware that bears are expanding their range into our living areas", said an official in Hokkaido. Hmm, seems like the remaining bear population here doesn't have much of a chance.
And having been given a tin of Hokkaido bear meat earlier this year by a friend in Niseko, it all sounds disturbingly similar to the Japanese whaling controversy.
Just drove by a store in Hakodate selling bear pelts... argh. You know when companies ([url=http://h-food.com/]like this one[/url]) build their business models on the assumption of a continued supply of dead bear that the practice has been institutionalized.
If you go to Rausu cho in Shiretoko, the local Tourist Association web site lists a few things you might want to know:
"Is Rausu part of the World Natural Heritage Site of "Shiretoko"?
Yes, Rausu is also part of the "Shiretoko" area registered as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site!"
"Can I eat sea lion meat and bear meat in Rausu?
Barbequed sea lion and bear meat is available at "Shiretoko" (0153-87-6433). You can sample sea lion meat ramen, bear meat ramen, sea lion sashimi, venison sashimi, barbequed sea lion and bear hotpot at "Kuma no Ana" (0153-89-2444)."