animals

  • A bear and its cub walking during daylight hours, taken from video footage (courtesy of Prof. Sato)

    Do you know the method of surveying the population of brown bears? In mid-May, we accompanied Professor Sato Yoshikazu of Rakuno Gakuen University on a survey of the population of brown bears in Sa...

  • As alpine trails begin to open in Hokkaido, there are more and more opportunities for people to go hiking and gathering wild vegetables in the mountains. This season, attention is particularly focused on products to protect people from brown bears. But how effective are they? We asked experts how to use and dispose of them correctly. (By Uchiyama Takeshi of the Hokkaido Shimbun Press, General News Center)

  • On May 11, a ninth baby sea otter was born and is growing up quickly on the coast of Cape Kiritappu (Cape Tofutsu) in the Kushiro region of eastern Hokkaido, which is a breeding ground for the endangered sea otter. The pup sleeps on its mother's abdomen and suckles her breast. In the harsh natural environment where more than half of the pups that are born, die, a new sea otter story has begun.

  • Black beaked whales (Berardius minimus), a species newly confirmed in the town of Rausu in the Shiretoko area of eastern Hokkaido in 2019, have been photographed off the coast by a guide on a tourist boat from the town. The four whales were photographed and videoed surfacing before diving back down beneath the waves.

  • The indigenous tanuki is ubiquitous throughout the four main islands of Japan, including Hokkaidō, and I see it quite frequently here, where I live, in the Akan–Mashu National Park. For most Japanese residents however, this creature remains rarely seen and more mythical than real. After all, it is widespread and numerous, at least in ceramic form, appearing outside taverns and eateries throughout the land, and every child learns, via folk tales and fables, of its strange guile and bewildering shape-shifting capabilities. By Mark Brazil

  • Asahiyama Zoo in the city of Asahikawa opened for the summer season on April 29, with the Ezo Brown Bear Enclosure attracting the attention of visitors. Hokkaido’s natural environment – in which the bears live – has been recreated in the free-range enclosure, the first large-scale exhibit to open in nine years. The enclosure houses a female bear named Tonko (estimated to be 23 years old, 165 cm long, and weighing 140 kg), who lives alone. Tonko was taken in by the zoo after her mother was exterminated, and the facility is expected to serve as a base for reconsidering coexistence with humans, amid a string of brown bear sightings in urban areas.

  • Early in the morning, the Ishikari Plain is shrouded in spring haze. From the Tsukigata Ohashi Bridge, which straddles the border between the city of Bibai and the town of Tsukigata in the Sorachi region, the view beyond the Ishikari River is that of the Pinneshiri and Kamuishiri mountains. A gaggle of roosting geese begins to move. After wintering in Honshu, tens of thousands of geese gather at Miyajima Swamp in Bibai before continuing their journey of several thousand kilometers. Gradually, they proceed northward in pursuit of watering holes.

  • A picture scroll depicting Shiretoko, where brown bears and humans live closely together, will be exhibited in the Ezo Higuma (brown bear) Hall, a large-scale exhibition facility that will open at Asahiyama Zoo (Asahikawa) on April 29. The Shiretoko Nature Foundation and picture book author Akashi Nobuko, who lives near the zoo, were involved in the production of the scroll, which introduces issues involved in the coexistence of humans and brown bears, through pictures with a gentle touch.

  • A newborn spotted seal at Wakkanai Noshappu Aquarium in Hokkaido, northern Japan, has made its debut on social media, with video clips of its growth shared by the aquarium on its Facebook account. The pup measured 64 centimeters and weighed about 10 kilograms at birth in late March. Thanks to its mother’s milk and plenty of sleep, it quickly grew to 17 kilograms in just a week.

  • n March 31, two men who were conducting ecological research on brown bears were attacked by a bear that emerged from its hibernation den on Mt. Sankaku in Sapporo's Nishi-ku. One man received a serious head injury while the other received serious injuries to his arm. Subsequent investigation by the City of Sapporo revealed that the brown bear that attacked them was raising two cubs. The den was only about 500 meters away from a residential area, in a place where hikers and other members of the public could easily have stumbled across it. The increasing bear population has highlighted the fact that the bears' habitat is getting closer to human settlements, and experts warn that, “we need to fundamentally change the perception that bears hibernate deep in the mountains.”

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