A quarter of the peak time… “hunter shortage” If this situation continues, we will not be able to fight “bears”! What to do about the problem of aging hunting clubs? | FRIDAY DIGITAL

A quarter of the peak time… “hunter shortage” If this situation continues, we will not be able to fight “bears”! What to do about the problem of aging hunting clubs?

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Hunting clubs” are increasingly mobilized when bears appear in the wild…originally an organization of “hunting enthusiasts

There is no end to the news of bears appearing in the wild. According to preliminary figures released by the Ministry of the Environment on October 1, a record 180 people in 18 prefectures were affected by bears between April and the end of October.

In past years, bear appearances have tended to increase from October, before they go into hibernation, but this year there has been a particularly large number of sightings in human settlements. This year, however, there has been a particularly large number of bear sightings in human settlements.

Acorns, which are the bears’ food, are in short supply throughout Japan, and in Hokkaido there are many areas with poor harvests of mountain grapes and kokuwa.

Bears usually go into hibernation from early to mid-December, but they hibernate later in years when there is plenty of bait, and earlier when there is no bait. This year, with the lack of bait, it may be a little earlier.

However, before that time, they will probably extend their range to human settlements in search of food, and in Honshu, they may come out to eat persimmons around private homes. It would be a nuisance for humans.”

Professor Yoshikazu Sato of Dairy Farming University, who is well versed in bear ecology and is at the forefront of Hokkaido’s brown bear countermeasures, points out.

This year, the number of human casualties caused by bears is at a record pace throughout Japan. The frequency of bear appearances in human habitats is expected to increase due to a shortage of acorns, which serve as bait, and the fact that bears that grow up near human settlements tend to increase and come down to human settlements more easily.

Because of the unusually frequent appearances of bears, hunting clubs, which are responsible for hunting and extermination, will have more opportunities to mobilize their services. However, many hunting fraternities face the problem of aging hunters and a shortage of personnel. For example, the Hokkaido Hunting Friendship Association, which consists of 71 chapters in Hokkaido, has 5,361 members, nearly a quarter of its peak membership.

The Hunting Fraternity Association is basically an organization of hunting enthusiasts, and the membership rate is quite high. Some of them shoot birds, some specialize in deer and wild boar, and some hunt bears.

However, the hurdles to owning a hunting rifle are high, and I don’t think as many of the younger generation are as interested in hunting wild animals with a gun as they used to be in the first place.

Bears once fetched up to 1 million yen each in Hokkaido, including fur, meat, and bear gall. At the same time, shooting bears was connected to protecting the safety of the local community, which made it worthwhile. Now, however, the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law and the Washington Convention have restricted commercial trade in bear gall bladders, and their pelts have lost all market value, as they are no longer profitable. The only compensation for shooting bears is a daily allowance or a reward for each bear.

This makes it difficult to increase the number of bearers. On the other hand, active hunters are getting older. I think that is the current situation of the hunting clubs.

Still, local governments have no choice but to rely on local hunting clubs, which play a key role in bear extermination.

Most hunters who have specialized skills in pest control are members of hunting fraternities,” he says. They have know-how that has been passed down through local chapters and subcommittees, which serve as units for local activities, and they also have knowledge of the local topography and bear behavior patterns based on their many years of experience.

Nowadays, members of hunting clubs are often commissioned by local governments and dispatched when requested to do so. In some cases, a daily allowance is set for the dispatch, while in other cases, a reward is paid for the capture of one animal, and the compensation varies from municipality to municipality.

In any case, as long as the members of the hunting clubs are healthy and able to take charge of bear extermination, there is nothing better than continuing the work while passing on skills and knowledge to younger members.

Is it really OK to “make decisions on the spot and exterminate bears almost entirely on a “hand-to-mouth” basis?

Some local governments now offer incentives of 20,000 yen or more for bear extermination, but there are still regional differences, and it seems that not a few hunters respond to the call for service out of a sense of responsibility for the safety of the community, even though the amount is not commensurate with their efforts.

Some question the current system in which hunting fraternity members, who are essentially hunting enthusiasts, are responsible for everything from on-site decisions to extermination, almost entirely on a voluntary basis.

In areas where the hunting fraternity is aging or there are no members who can immediately mobilize, it may be a good idea to consider hiring young people who are interested in hunting and training them to take charge of pest extermination.

For example, one way to do this would be to utilize the Regional Development Cooperation Volunteers, who would work on wildlife control while acquiring knowledge and skills as hunters during their three-year term of office, and then hire them as employees after their term ends.

Hunters are the mainstay of bear extermination, but the Hokkaido Hunting Association has 5,361 members, nearly a quarter of its peak (PHOTO: Kyodo News)

Is there a case study that can serve as a reference?

In Hokkaido, Shimukappu Village employs a wildlife specialist. He was originally a member of the Regional Development Cooperation Volunteers. He is now an employee of the village and also a hunter, surveying bear habitat conditions and damage, and responding to bear appearances. While also working with the local hunting club, we are working on effective countermeasures in a way that involves mainly young people observing bears and taking data to determine if extermination is necessary, ” he says.

The presence of local staff with sufficient knowledge of wildlife control is reassuring and reassuring to residents.

When local government officials and hunting associations understand the wildlife that inhabit the area and the problems they face, they can provide residents with a thorough explanation. By presenting reports and data based on surveys, for example, residents will change their minds about taking care of garbage and managing farmland properly to prevent bears from appearing in the area.

If the technology to reliably capture bears in an emergency is maintained, and if there are people who can make realistic decisions about whether to exterminate or protect bears, I think the level of tolerance among residents will increase and the town will become “bear-resistant.

Fire brigade, police officers, and other existing public organizations should be utilized more urgently.

Professor Sato also suggests the use of existing public organizations.

Originally, within the administrative organization for birds and beasts, there should be a department specializing in local response to the appearance of bears and other large wild animals in urban areas. However, in a society with a declining population, it may be a hurdle to establish a new administrative organization.

In fact, we believe that a “fire brigade” would be an appropriate organization to be established within an existing organization. Since they are responsible for protecting the community from disasters on a daily basis, I think they have a high affinity with measures against birds and beasts.

For example, a system could be established whereby personnel such as a special unit that responds when bears invade people’s living areas could be assigned to some fire station over a wide area, and these personnel could be dispatched on a priority basis in the event of an emergency.

Education could also be provided in the form of adding a new course on bird and animal control to the curriculum of firefighting schools and inviting people to choose this course. Ultimately, I think there are many possibilities, such as having special units take charge of everything from awareness-raising activities to prevent accidents, to implementing measures to control invasions, and even capturing the animals.

Although police officers cannot fire their guns at wild animals because the range of use of guns is regulated, Professor Sato says, “There may be room for consideration.

The Birds and Wild Animals Protection and Management Law prohibits the firing of firearms in urban areas. Hunters can only fire at bears that have appeared in urban areas if a police officer gives the order based on Article 4 of the Police Duties Execution Law, which states that the situation is imminently dangerous to human life.

But that is a bit strange. Shouldn’t police officers be responsible for sharing the role before hunters who are employed part-time on an hourly or daily basis are allowed to use guns in urban areas? If that is not possible, then a separate organization such as bird and wildlife administrators, firefighters, or the Self-Defense Forces should be made available to take on that role.”

By the way, the Ministry of the Environment allocated 73 million yen for a project to combat bears in the draft supplementary budget for FY’2011 approved by the Cabinet on March 10. The ministry will take urgent measures such as surveying and capturing problem bears that appear in their living areas.

The Ministry of the Environment has already announced on the 24th of last month that it will provide emergency assistance to Hokkaido and three prefectures in the northern Tohoku region, where bears are frequently seen in urban areas. In response, Hokkaido had called for the creation of a support system for hunter compensation and dispatch expenses.

The government’s support for bear control measures by prefectures is meaningless if it is provided only for a single year. Continuous support is still necessary.

In Hokkaido, the bear issue has been discussed extensively in the Hokkaido prefectural assembly, and the prefecture is beginning to move in the direction of making firm efforts to manage bears. Regardless of whether or not there is government support, I hope that the Hokkaido government will allocate human resources and budgets from a long-term perspective.

On March 13, Governor Naomichi Suzuki of Hokkaido and Governor Takuya Tatsu Masu of Iwate Prefecture and others visited the Ministry of the Environment and asked Environment Minister Shintaro Ito to add bears to the list of “designated controlled birds and animals. They also requested support for bear hunting costs.

What is Hokkaido’s plan to manage bears?

The Hokkaido government has been trying to reduce conflicts by setting an upper limit to the number of bears to be captured in the “Brown Bear Management Plan” revised last March, and by capturing problematic individuals while not greatly reducing the population. However, the actual number of bears captured is below the upper limit. As a result, the number of bears in some areas has increased, and so has the friction.

Therefore, experts are now considering setting a capture target number for areas around human settlements where conflicts occur. In order to reduce conflicts with people, there must be a shift toward actively managing the number of bears around human settlements.

We must consider how to achieve this as the number of skilled hunters ages and declines. I believe this is a nationwide trend, not just in Hokkaido.

Unfortunately, however, Hokkaido has not made much progress in management planning. We have no staff who can go out into the field and conduct basic monitoring, so while we talk about managing problem individuals, we are unable to fully grasp the number of problem individuals and their movements. The spread of pest control measures to prevent invasion into human settlements is also lagging behind.

On the other hand, in the Shiretoko Peninsula and Sapporo City, where advanced efforts are being made, the number of problem bears has been identified and their numbers are being monitored to a great extent. I think the methods of municipalities and regions that have made progress in such bear control measures can be of some help.”

It seems clear that the battle against bears is still an unpredictable situation.

Yoshikazu Sato, professor at Dairy Farm University, was born in Tokyo in 1971. He was a member of the Hokkaido University Brown Bear Research Group when he was in the Faculty of Agriculture at Hokkaido University. Currently serves as a member of the Hokkaido Brown Bear Conservation Management Review Committee and as a member of the Shiretoko World Natural Heritage Regional Scientific Committee and chair of the Brown Bear Working Group. He is the author of “Urban Bear: Confronting the Brown Bear in My Neighborhood” (University of Tokyo Press).

  • Interview and text by Sayuri Saito

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