The largest land animal in Hokkaido is a bear and this Japan’s northernmost island has really big bears. The Ezo Higuma, also known as the brown bear lives only in Hokkaido and currently is the key species for conservation.
Sahoro Bear Mountain is a bear sanctuary that gives you the opportunity to observe these Ezo Bears in their wildlife environment. Unlike the zoo, there are 2 ways to enjoy bear watching here, one is using the Jurassic Park style bus ride and the other is via elevated walkway right through the heart of the park.
Located next to the Sahoro Ski Resort, this 15 hectares of forest land has been fenced and home to currently 12 adult male brown bears. According to our guide, they only keep male bears because female bears will attract other male bears outside the sanctuary and this could cause trouble.
This ‘bear watching bus’ tour can sit 30 passengers and runs every 1 hour around the 1.2 kilometer loop. Although the recorded voice information is in Japanese, there are english printed materials that can help us understand better about the bears. Besides, the bus driver spoke good english and was very eager to ensure we have an enjoyable and informative tour.
Along the route, every time there is a bear in sight, the bus will stop and we could really observe these bears up close in their natural state from the comfort and safety of our armored bus.
Leaving the bus, we were then led to an enclosed observation area with only big glass walls that separated us from the bear. Standing so close to the bear, we could really see and appreciate the huge size of the Ezo Higuma.
When standing, a male Ezo Bear could reach over 2 meters in height, weigh close to 400kg and can run at a speed of 50 km per hour.
From the glass wall observation building, we then headed towards the elevated walk way. Walking at 5 meters above ground totally gives a different perspective of bear watching. Though it is harder to spot a bear from up here, the walkway offers a beautiful view of the mountain and you could see the whole park.
For more information visit http://www.sahoro.com.jp