The body of a Formosan black bear was found in the shallows of Hualien County’s Lakulaku River (拉庫拉庫溪) on Thursday. A preliminary autopsy suggests that the bear was dead before its body entered the water, authorities said.
The body was found by Nanan Village (南安) Warden Lai Chin-te (賴金德), who said he saw the body downstream of the Nanan waterfalls.
Lai said that because of high-running water he could see only part of the bear’s body and initially thought it was driftwood. It was not until the next morning that he saw the bear’s body when waters had receded.
Photo courtesy of Lin Chia-yang
Lai said at first he thought it was a dead boar, but after seeing the bear’s paws he immediately notified the Forestry Agency and Township Office.
The Hualien County Fire Department pulled the body from the river using a rubber raft.
Lai said it was sad that the first bear he ever saw was a dead one.
The agency’s veterinarian said that the bear was an adult and was largely unharmed, adding that the body had been sent to the Pingtung University of Science and Technology for an autopsy.
Preliminary autopsy results on Friday showed that the bear was an adult female Formosan black bear weighing 57kg and 1.45m in height. It is suspected the bear had given birth at least once, as its nipples showed signs of suckling.
The bear’s left front paw was missing, and the fifth digit on its right front paw was broken, suggesting that the bear had stepped onto traps at least twice, the university said, adding that both wounds were old, were not fatal and had been ruled out as a cause of death.
A possible cause of death could be related to bruising found on the crown of the bear’s head, the university said.
The bear was about 10 years old with good teeth, the university said.
It was suspected that the bear might have drowned, but the bear had undigested food in its stomach and no residual water in its lungs, according to the university’s Institute of Wildlife Conservation director Hwang Mei-hsu (黃美秀).
A precise cause of death is unlikely to be known for at least three to four days, as not all test results have been returned, Hwang said.
Earlier last month, another Formosan black bear was found dead.
The bear, named Kaying, had a tracker implanted by Hwang’s research team.
First seen on Aug. 4 in the Batongguan Historic Trail (八通關古道) area in Hualien by an Amis man named Lin Chia-yang (林家洋) who was doing repairs on the trail, Kaying was reported to be “limping and looking weak.”
The team found the bear in an overhang, about 30m under the trail. Lin offered to get closer to Kaying and took a photograph of the bear. He fed it a small jar of honey and some water.
On Aug. 13, the Yushan National Park Office reported that there was a dead Formosan black bear, and the research team later confirmed that it was Kaying.
Researchers have used the corpse as a bone model.
Formosan black bears are the nation’s only endemic bears and are listed as a first-class priority conservation species by law.
The Yushan National Park Office estimates that about 100 bears live in the park.
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