Taipei, The Chiaming Lake area in Taitung County will be closed until Sept. 5, the Forestry Bureau said Wednesday, in the wake of four reported sightings of Formosan black bears in and around the cabins in the area over the past two weeks.
Huang Chun-tse (???), deputy director of the bureau's Taitung District office, said that during the two-week closure, animal experts, hiking guides and officials in charge of the forest recreation area will try to determine why the bears are frequenting the site and how to prevent any encounters with humans.
The decision to close the lakeside site was made after the bears, which are endemic to Taiwan, were spotted near the Siangyang and Chiaming cabins on Aug. 9, 10, 17 and 18, Huang said.
On Aug. 9 and 10, bears were spotted by a hiking guide and a park official late at night near the Siangyang Cabin, which is about 4.3 kilometers from the entrance to the Siangyang Forest Recreation area, Huang said.
There were other sightings on Aug. 17 and 18, this time by hikers, in the cooking areas of the Siangyang Cabin and near of the restrooms of the Chiaming Cabin, about 8.7 kilometers from the park entrance, he said.
In a photo posted on the bureau's website, which Huang said was taken on Aug. 18, a Formosan Black Bear is seen reaching up to a shelf containing kitchenware and there were people in the cooking area shooting the photo. The bear did not retreat even though it sensed the presence of persons. In their previous encounters, the bear escaped after seeing people, he noted.
Huang said the bears are most likely being attracted by the food in the cabins, but the relevant authorities will try to determine whether other factors such as human encroachment on their natural habit are causing their unusual behavior.
The Formosan Black Bear is omnivorous, has no history of attacking humans in Taiwan and generally tends to avoid direct contact with humans, he said.
The Forestry Bureau will install infrared cameras outside the cabins to monitor the bears, and will also seek to better educate hikers about the protection of wild animals and safety in their habitat, Huang said.
"One of the reasons we have to close the park is because so many people have been calling to ask if they can come to see the bears, which would be terribly dangerous," he said.
It is most important to keep a safe distance away from animals in the wild, he said, adding that food leftovers and liter should not be dropped in those areas either.
Huang also advised that hikers in the area walk in groups and carry a bear deterrent spray and whistles or other objects that could make a loud noise.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel