After wild monkeys have attacked at least 45 residents of Yamaguchi, a city in western Japan, authorities have armed officers with tranquilizer guns to confront the marauding macaques, according to The Japan Times.
The macaques, also known as snow monkeys, have crawled through house windows and struck residents from behind. The victims range from toddlers to the elderly, according to CNN.
Initially, officials attributed the attacks to one rogue monkey — but they now say they cannot confirm if one or several of the animals were responsible.
Mieko Kiyono, an expert in wildlife management and associate professor at Kobe University, told CNN that Japanese macaques have coexisted alongside humans for hundreds of years. “Japan is very mountainous and communities live close to mountains where monkeys live, so it is easy for monkeys to enter villages and towns,” said Kiyono.
Monkeys live in groups, but young males often leave to live alone for a period of time, meaning the monkey responsible for the attacks is most likely to be male, Kiyono said.
Police have attempted to trap the monkeys or capture them with nets to no avail so they have stepped up their efforts by arming officers with tranquilizer guns to quell the attacks, which started July 8.
Residents are advised to secure windows and sliding doors, which have been points of entry for the macaques.
Japanese macaques are common in large parts of the country and are pests in some areas, consuming crops and entering homes.
But the spate of attacks in western Japan has been unusual, officials said. Adults and children have been scratched and bit.
“All of Yamaguchi city is surrounded by mountains and it’s not rare to see monkeys,” a city official from the agricultural department told CNN, declining to give her name. “But it’s rare to see this many attacks in a short period of time.”
Masato Saito, an official from the Yamaguchi city hall, said the number of attacks is uncommon.