Two women have been killed by bears who managed to escape from their enclosure at the Hachimantai bear park in the Akita prefecture of Japan. It is believed that the bears climbed up snowdrifts to get over the fence.
The privately owned bear park is currently closed to the public for the winter. It is believed the two victims were employees at the park. Their ages have been given as 69 and 75 and it is unclear at this time whether they were feeding the bears.The police were called to the scene by a third employee, a man, who managed to escape the marauding bears.
The park has 33 bears in total but it is unclear how many have escaped. Heavy snow overnight provided large drifts which the bears were able to use to climb over the security fencing. CNN reports that several bears managed to escape on Friday April 20. So far, six are said to have been killed by a group of local hunters.
Roadblocks have been set up in the area, and residents have been told to stay indoors until such time as the whereabouts of all the bears can be ascertained.
Sky News reports that an unknown number of bears are still on the loose. A police spokeswoman says:
"We cannot go close to the park because we don't know which cages are open, and how many bears are on the loose."The National Post says that the police were alerted at 10am, but by nightfall they are still uncertain as to how many bears have escaped. The bodies of the two women were recovered some time after the start of the incident once the police felt it was safe to enter the bear park. The animals are believed to be mainly brown bears.