HOKKAIDO, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 28: An Ussuri brown bear and a cub eat salmon after catching it from the beach of Sea of Okhotsk near the town of Rausu on Saturday, September 28, 2019, in Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
The Washington Post / Contributor

Japanese Angler Missing, Nearby Bear Found with Waders In Mouth

Also, a local search party turned up an unidentified human head. Here's what we know.

A search is underway in Hokkaido, Japan, where authorities believe a missing angler may have been eaten by a bear.

Toshihiro Nishikawa, 54, was last seen Monday, May 15, when a local boat operator dropped him off to fish alone on Lake Shumarinai.

Later that day an employee of the boat operator saw a bear with a pair of waders hanging from its mouth.

The employee then attempted to contact Nishikawa, but couldn't get ahold of him. No one has heard from Nishikawa since.

After spotting the bear with a fisherman's pants in its mouth, officials launched a search party. What they found: the gruesome discovery of a human head.

Identification of the head has not yet been determined or released. Officials were also able to locate and kill a bear during the investigation.

Rise in Bear Activity in Japan

Sightings of the Ussuri brown bear are on the rise in Hokkaido, according to authorities.  So far this year there have been 339 reports, which stands at 40 more than last year at the same time. The Ussuri brown bear is similar to North America's grizzly bear in its size, its territoriality, and its history of killing humans.

Zsuzsanna Jenai/Getty

Bear Safety Tips When Fishing

The risks of fishing in bear country are real. Although bear attacks are rare, taking some precautionary actions can reduce the chances of an encounter even more. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game offers the following tips:

  • Give bears space. Should you encounter a bear, give it plenty of space. Stop, stand your ground, and decide if you can get to a safe place. Do not run, but if possible, always increase the space. If the bear doesn't see you, leave the area and try to watch the bear. While fishing with others stay close together; there's safety in numbers.
  • Splashing fish attract bears. Stop fishing if a bear is near enough to notice splashing. If the bear approaches while you have a fish on the line, give it slack or cut the line to eliminate splashing.
  • Travel during daylight hours, make noise, and avoid tunnel vision. Keep a sharp eye to the bushes, upstream, downstream, and behind at all times. Pause occasionally to look around.