A bear is suspected of having attacked and eaten a fisherman after a human head was found and boots were seen hanging from the animal’s mouth.
Police made the gruesome discovery at Lake Shumarinai on Hokkaido Island, situated in the northern part of Japan.
Toshihiro Nishikawa, a 54-year-old fisherman, was dropped off at a remote fishing spot near the lake in Horokanai on Monday, May 15, but he did not return to shore. Worried about his safety, fellow fishermen alerted authorities, initiating a search for him.
The boat operator who had taken Nishikawa to the lake spotted a bear with fishing boots in its mouth on the same day. Alarmed by the sight, the operator tried to contact Nishikawa but could not reach him. As a result, local officials organized a hunt to locate the potentially dangerous animal, resulting in the shooting of a bear later that evening.
During the search, a human head was discovered near Nishikawa’s last known location. Authorities, however, have not confirmed whether the remains belong to Nishikawa. In response to the suspected attack, the Horokanai town office issued an emergency warning, urging residents to be cautious when performing agricultural or forestry work or when entering mountainous regions where bear sightings have been reported.
Officials advised anyone encountering a bear to remain calm and hold their ground. Running or offering food to the bears is strongly discouraged. The main northern island of Hokkaido in Japan is estimated to be home to a population of 6,500 to 10,000 Ussuri brown bears. These bears can reach heights of up to 7 feet 6 inches and weigh over 550 lbs.
Interactions and conflicts between humans and bears are commonly reported, particularly in areas where human communities border natural wilderness. Hokkaido officials reported at least 14 bear attacks resulting in injuries or fatalities in 2021.
Despite being smaller than its North American grizzly bear counterpart, the Ussuri brown bear, also known as the Russian grizzly bear, poses an equal threat.