Packs of radioactive wild boars are running loose in northern Japan, where the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant in 2011 forced entire towns and villages to abandon ship. Six years later, the beasts pose more than a minor nuisance to displaced residents, a number of whom are eager to return to their homes as the Japanese government begins to lift evacuation orders in certain areas. Besides their obvious toxicity—tests by officials show that some animals possess levels of cesium-137 300 times higher than what is considered safe—the boars are also known to attack humans.
Swaths of farmland, now gone to seed, have become prime real estate for foraging varmints. According to Yomiuri, a local newspaper, boars have caused more than $854,000 in agricultural damage in Fukushima prefecture.
Local authorities in the affected towns have hired teams of hunters to shoot the boars with air rifles, or trap them in cages using rice flour as bait.
“After people left, they began coming down from the mountains and now they are not going back,” Shoichiro Sakamoto, who leads a group of 13 hunters in the town of Tomioka, told Reuters. “They found a place that was comfortable. There was plenty of food and no one to come after them.”
A recent government survey found than half the 21,500 former residents of the town of Namie, one of the towns included in the proposed evacuation-order lift, have decided against returning, citing fears over the safety of the nuclear plant, which will take decades to dismantle.
Several have also raised concerns about the bands of marauding boars.
“I’m sure officials at all levels are giving some thought to this,” said Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie. “Something must be done.”
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