A wild brown bear attacked multiple seniors, tackled a soldier, breached a military barracks and disrupted operations at a small airport in Sapporo, Japan on Friday, during an eight-hour rampage that ended with officials shooting the animal dead.
The bear’s antics captured national news and social media attention for much of the day in Japan, where many followed its every move through livestreamed footage and witness photos. Locals were ordered to stay indoors while the bear was on the loose.
“A total of four people, including one self-defence forces member, have been attacked and injured by the brown bear. We express our sincere sympathy to them,” government spokesperson Katsunobo Kato said at a press conference held during the spree.
A Sapporo resident first reported the bear to Hokkaido police before dawn after spotting it on a road in the city. Several more sighting reports came in a short time later, prompting police to issue a warning.
“If you find a bear, be careful to evacuate immediately,” police said on Twitter. “There have been multiple sightings and some have been injured.”
Videos show the bear running down streets, trotting through fields, clambering over fences and even attacking a man at a bus stop during its hours-long wanderings through the city.
The bear eventually attacked a uniformed soldier outside a military barracks, then ran onto the property and wandered over to a nearby airport runway. Flights were briefly disrupted by the ursine intruder, broadcaster NHK reported.
The soldier suffered cuts on his chest and stomach but his injuries were not life-threatening, Japan’s Defence Ministry said.
A man in his 70s, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 40s were also injured by the bear, police said. They did not share the extent of the injuries.
The rampage ended on Friday afternoon, when police declared that the bear had been “exterminated.” Local TV stations reported that it had been shot by hunters.
Wild bear sightings have been on the rise in recent years in the rural parts of western and northern Japan. The town of Takikawa, which is about 90 kilometres northeast of Sapporo, enlisted a robot “monster wolf” last winter as part of a plan to keep the bears away.
Sapporo is due to host a few racing events this summer as part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.