A brown bear invaded one of Japan's largest cities Friday, storming through a military base and airport, before it was shot and killed. Four people were injured by the bear, which was spotted running through residential neighborhoods and scaling fences in Sapporo on the northern island of Hokkaido. "Given that it is the breeding season right now, it's highly conceivable that the male was chasing after a female bear, and in the process wandered into a residential area," Shinsuke Koike, a bear expert at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology, tells the Washington Post. It reports such encounters are on the rise in Japan, where a shrinking rural population has allowed bears to expand their territory into mountain foothills and flatlands. It's "to the point of bears living right behind people's backyards," says Koike.
Environment Ministry data shows two people were killed and 158 were injured in encounters with bears in 2020, while at least 6,861 bears were killed, per the Post. This bear met that same fate after injuring four people, including an 80-something woman, per the Times of London. A man in his 40s was mauled from behind, suffering various injuries including broken ribs, per the outlet. A soldier was also injured as the bear forced its way through the gates of a military base run by Japan's Self-Defense Forces, per the Guardian. The bear also climbed a fence at Sapporo Okadama airport, where eight flights were canceled. Ten schools were closed. Hunters were recruited to take down the bear, as Koike says tranquilizing it would have taken too long, risking further incidents. The bear fell around 11am local time, eight hours after it was initially spotted. (Read more bear attack stories.)