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OSO18, the King of Red Bear

Danjyuro IGHIKAWA

OSO18 (ca. 2008-2012 - July 30, 2023) is the code name for one male brown bear that was attacking livestock (dairy cows) from 2019 to 2023 in the area of Shibecha-cho and Atsugishi-cho, Kawakami County, eastern Hokkaido.

Named for the place in Shibecha-cho Shimo-Osotsubetsu where the damage occurred in broad daylight with the only human sighting in July 2019, and for the width of its paws, which are 18 cm.

The total number of cattle believed to have been attacked by OSO18 in Shibecha and Atsugishi-cho from 2019 to the end of June 2023 is estimated to be 66 in total, 32 of which were killed based on DNA analysis of body hair left behind. Only three photos were taken automatically at night and one color photo taken in June 2023. The hunters estimated their route of action from the footprints and ambushed them in the morning and evening, but were unable to capture them. The hunters were described as cautious, as if they knew about the Bird Protection Law (which prohibits the firing of hunting rifles at night). They target grazing cattle, but since the beginning of 2022, their attack sites are getting closer to barns and homes.

In the case of the July 2022 attack, the bear ate the entrails of the killed cattle on the spot and dragged them to a stream about 100m away the next morning to eat the meat as well, showing the unique habit of brown bears that are obsessed with food.

On June 25, 2023, the first daytime color photo was successfully taken in a town-owned forest in Shibecha, and DNA typing of body hairs determined that the individual in the photo was OSO18. The body size analyzed from the photo is approximately 2.2 m in length and 1.2 m in height, which is almost consistent with the previously assumed body size. Hokkaido had aimed to capture the animal unattended using traps, as there was a high possibility that it would be detected and run away when shot by hunters, but it was exterminated by hunters (employees of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Division of the Kushiro Town Office) on July 30, 2023, at a farm in the town of Kushiro in the Kushiro District and widely reported on August 21, 2023. The Kushiro Regional Promotion Bureau also announced on August 22 of the same year that it had confirmed that it was the same individual as OSO18. The hunter who exterminated the animal tried to stuff the head as a souvenir, but was unable to do so because the skull had been dismembered by bullets. Part of the body was distributed as edible meat, and was served as charcoal-grilled meat at a gibier restaurant in Tokyo, processed by a meat processing company in Shiranuka-cho, Shiranuka-gun, Hokkaido, and served as miso stew at a gibier restaurant in Kushiro City on the evening of August 24, and as bear meat on some Internet shopping sites.


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