Local authorities in the Japanese city of Yamaguchi said on Monday they are turning to tranquilizer guns to confront rogue monkeys that have injured 42 people in recent weeks.
Japanese macaques are commonly seen in large parts of the country, and are a pest in some areas, eating crops and even entering homes.
But monkey attacks have been uncommon in the western Japanese city, with adults and children suffering wounds including scratches and bites.
“The city of Yamaguchi is surrounded by mountains and it is not rare to see monkeys,” a city official from the Department of Agriculture told AFP. “But it is rare to see so many attacks in such a short period of time.”
Injuries have been largely mild so far, but officers are now turning to tranquilizer guns, as they have been caught in traps that have failed to catch any strange primates.
“Initially only children and women were attacked. Recently elderly and adult men have also been targeted,” the official said.
The city doesn’t even know whether the attacks are the work of multiple monkeys or one aggressive person. In some cases intruders have entered by sliding open screen doors, or by entering through windows.
City officials and police have been patrolling the area since the first attacks around July 8, but no monkeys have been caught so far.
The story has made headlines in Japan in recent weeks, with local residents reporting regular invasions.
“I heard a cry from the ground floor, so I got down quickly,” a local father told the Mainichi Shimbun daily. “Then I saw a monkey gnawing on my baby.”
Considered a vulnerable species until the early 20th century, Japanese macaques have increased in numbers in recent decades. They are currently listed as a species of “least concern” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
But according to a study from Yamagata University, “the recovery process has rarely been seen as a conservation success, as it has led to serious conflict between humans and macaques.”