When I saw the carcass of a cow with its back broken in the pasture, I was shocked like never before; I had never seen a cow weighing nearly 200 kg cut in half in my entire life. I thought it was the work of a monster, and I was terrified.
An employee of a dairy farm whose cows were slaughtered by OSO 18 says he still remembers the horror of that time.
Since the first report of OSO 18 in 1919, it has continued to attack grazing dairy cows and has killed as many as 66 cows. The code name was given to the bear because the width of its pawprints, which were found to be 18 cm, was 18 cm, and because of the name of the place where it was first spotted, Osotsubetsu, Shibecha Town, Hokkaido, Japan.
Since January of last year, Shibecha and Akkeshi, where the damage occurred, have installed more than 10 box traps and 15 surveillance cameras. The local hunting clubs have also been taking shifts to patrol the farms, and desperate measures have been taken. On August 22, it was announced that Oso, which had been feared as a “ninja bear” that had evaded the search net, had finally been “exterminated.
The actual extermination took place on July 30, a little before the announcement. A hunter working for the Kushiro Township Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries Department was patrolling pastureland in Senboushi Village, Kushiro Township, which is adjacent to Atsugishi Township and Shibecha Township, when he spotted Oso at around 5:00 a.m. He shot him dead. He shot and killed him,” said an official of the Kushiro Town Office.
The brown bear lying with its eyes open in the photo below is the same Oso that has terrorized Hokkaido for the past five years. The town hall official reveals the monster’s “final moments.
The hunter who shot and killed Oso was in his 40s and had only been licensed as a hunter for four or five years. It was the first time he had killed a brown bear. Oso was considered very cautious, but he did not run away when he encountered the hunter. First, from a distance of 80 meters, the hunter hit him with a single bullet to the neck. Then, we were told, he moved closer, up to 20 meters, and two bullets fired into his head caused him to die.”
The captured Oso was quite large, weighing 330 kg. His estimated age was 13-14 years old, which was quite long-lived for a brown bear with an average life span of around 10 years.
Still, the horror persists.
All the carcasses were dismantled except for some tusks, which were not left behind. This is because the hunters who killed them did not realize that they were osso and sold them wholesale to dismantling companies. They were sold to gibier restaurants and to individuals for human consumption. The vicious “vermin” became part of the cycle of the meat industry.
A hunter who belonged to the Shibecha Chapter of the Hokkaido Hunting Fraternity Association and spent five years chasing the oso, confides his mixed feelings.
I was surprised when I heard that the oso had been exterminated. Of course I am happy about it, but to be honest, I am also frustrated. I had been determined to avenge the hunter’s death and catch him at Shibecha. After Oso appeared, all I could think about day and night was shooting him. There has never been a brown bear that has caused this much damage. We wanted to catch him and preserve Oso by stuffing him to show the damage to future generations. ……”
But the threat of giant brown bears is not likely to be solved by Oso’s extermination.
At least we have eliminated the risk of damage from Oso, which in itself is a good thing. That in itself is a good thing. But it is very likely that a second or third Oso will emerge in the future, and after five years of existence, they will certainly have left offspring. Even if they don’t have Oso’s DNA, some brown bears will have learned from Oso that it is safe to attack dairy cows. Defeating Oso has not fundamentally solved the brown bear problem.
The rare monster has been exterminated and still terrifies people. This is the difficulty for humans to live in harmony with nature. There is much for us to learn from OSO.
From the September 15 and 22, 2023 issues of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Shibecha Town Hall (footprints) Sasaki Farm (dairy cows)