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article imageJapanese man loses finger in latest bear attack

By AFP     Jun 15, 2016 in World

A Japanese man lost his little finger after being attacked by a bear in western Japan on Wednesday, police and reports said, the latest attack by the animals on humans.

It came two days after human flesh and hair were found inside the stomach of a bear suspected of attacking at least one of four people in northern Japan who apparently died from such assaults.

On Wednesday morning, a bear believed to be 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) tall, attacked a 63-year-old man who was at a river in Shimane prefecture, area police told AFP.

"His face and left hand were injured," police spokesman Masuhiko Ito said, without giving details of the injury.

But the Asahi Shimbun daily reported that the man had his little finger severed in the attack. He was conscious and sent to hospital, it added.

"The injury isn't life-threatening," Ito said, adding the bear ran away after attacking the man.

Bear sightings in rural Shimane in April and May reached 139, up from 115 in the same period last year, according to the local government.

"There have been no fatal attacks these past few years," prefectural official Michiko Kamoto said.

But according to Kamoto, people tend to see bears especially in spring and summer as the animals become active after hibernation.

On Saturday, a tourist was slightly injured by a bear in central Gifu prefecture, while a woman was bitten on the face by one in northern Iwate prefecture last week while she was picking edible wild plants.

Last month, three men -- two in their seventies and one in his sixties -- died in apparent attacks while harvesting bamboo shoots in three separate incidents in a mountain forest of Akita prefecture.

The body of a fourth victim, a badly mauled 74-year-old woman, was discovered Friday. The woman had reportedly been picking wild plants.

Hunters killed a bear just 10 metres from the spot where her remains were discovered. Human flesh and hair were found in the bear's stomach but it remains unclear if it was responsible for her death.

Following the four deaths, Akita officials issued warnings to avoid the mountain forest but some are ignoring them to seek popular seasonal bamboo shoots and wild plants.

Bamboo shoots are a staple food for bears at this time of year.

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