Formosan black bears, which are endemic to Taiwan, have recently been spotted on mountain trails at lower altitudes in Yushan National Park, park rangers said yesterday.
Formosan black bears used to be found in forests throughout Taiwan, but the expansion of human activity and land development has gradually forced the animals to retreat deeper into the mountains.
The Yushan National Park Administration said the bears have only been spotted at high altitudes in recent years.
But last month some rangers found bear tracks around a mountain hut in the Yushan park at a medium elevation where mountain climbers like to camp.
Early this month, park rangers also spotted fresh claw scratches made by bears on tree trunks along a mountain trail between Dongpu (東埔) and Guangao (觀高) in Nantou County’s Sinyi Township (信義).
“Reports from rangers show a trend, with Formosan black bears venturing into mountainous regions frequented by humans,” an administration official said.
As to why Formosan black bears were reappearing in lower-altitude forests, the official said they could be attracted by the smell of food left behind by mountain climbers.
In addition, the official said, the number of other species, such as barking deer and goats, along mountain trails had increased in recent years, which may be drawing the bears down from higher altitudes.
With the chances of running into Formosan black bears increasing, the official reminded mountain climbers to remain calm and composed if they encounter a bear.
“While Formosan black bears can be ferocious and dangerous, they will usually not attack unless they are threatened, hurt or feel that their cubs are in danger,” the official said.
The best thing to do in the event of an encounter with a bear is to stay calm, try not to provoke the animal and leave the vicinity immediately, the official said.
The official said Formosan black bears, although strong, sturdy and skilled at mountain climbing, were less agile and slower than other carnivores.
Mountain climbers are advised to refrain from climbing trees or pretending to be dead if they come across a bear.