A Formosan black bear was found dead in a ravine near Jiaming Lake (嘉明湖) in Taitung County on Saturday, prompting speculation over the creature’s cause of death, which is to be determined by an autopsy by the National Pingtung University of Science and Technology, the Taitung Forest District Office said.
The carcass was discovered by a group of mountaineers at about 1:30pm on Saturday, who found the bear lying motionless on top of some fallen branches and took pictures of the scene from a distance, the office said.
The office said that, after receiving word about the incident, it asked the group to carry the dead bear to Siangyang National Forest Recreation Area, where it was to be kept before being transported to the university’s Institute of Wildlife Conservation for an autopsy.
The body had not yet stiffened when it was attended to by office employees, indicating that the bear had died shortly before its body was found, the office said.
After examining the body and the site yesterday morning, Institute of Wildlife Conservation chairperson Huang Mei-hsiu (黃美秀) denied speculation that the bear was a female and that it was the same creature sighted in December last year, in which hikers reported spotting an adult female and a cub.
Huang, dubbed “bear mother” for her long-term research on the Formosan black bear, said the male bear was more than 60 years old in terms of human lifespan. The creature was 161cm tall and evidently underweight, weighing 81kg compared with the average weight of adult males, which is about 100kg.
Office Deputy Director-General Liu Chiung-lien (劉瓊蓮) said the bear could have been underweight because it had lost four fingers on its left front paw, which took away its ability to climb trees to search for food.
In addition, practically all of its teeth had either been worn out or missing, which seriously hampered its chewing ability, she said.
There could have been more than one cause of death, she added.
According to an Aboriginal leader, A-lang, he used to come across Formosan black bears in Siangyang (向陽) and in the Jiaming Lake area, but had never seen a dead one.
Forestry bureau officials also said they had not seen a bear carcass for many decades.
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