© Guérin Nicolas/Wikimedia Commons
Asiatic Black Bear
Officials in Mie Prefecture have apologized to neighboring Shiga Prefecture after an elderly woman was attacked by a moon bear 6 km from where they released such an animal.

The 88-year-old woman from Taga suffered severe injuries including a broken right cheekbone after being attacked by a bear at around 4:30 a.m. on Wednesday while praying to a Jizo statue along the prefectural road in Taga's mountains.

Jizo statues are Buddhist icons that are believed to help protect travelers, women, children and the weak. They are usually found at crossroads, and are often looked after by elderly people living in the area.

According to Shiga Prefectural Police, the bear roared at the woman from behind and swiped at her with its paw before it ran away.

They said the woman's injuries were not life-threatening.

Taga, a small town in Shiga Prefecture, is situated 6 km from the border area where Mie Prefecture officials released an Asian black bear (also known as moon bear) in early May.

While it has not been confirmed that the bear that attacked the woman was the same animal, Taga Mayor Hisayoshi Kubo criticized the release.

The town said that no wild bear had been spotted in Taga since 2004, until the latest incident occurred.

Mie Prefecture officials visited Taga to offer an apology for failing to inform Shiga authorities about letting the bear loose.

The prefecture said a moon bear, which is an endangered species, was discovered on May 17 caught in a hog trap in a mountainous area in Inabe.

After anesthetizing the bear, they transported it by truck, releasing it in the border area in accordance with prefectural guidelines.

"With the recent incident in mind, we will need to revise our guidelines," said Takahiko Uda, head of Mie Prefecture's wildlife management and damage prevention office.

He said current guidelines did not impose any obligation to inform authorities in neighboring municipalities of a release of wild animals into the mountains.