Six years after residents were forced to evacuate the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Japanese authorities are now dealing with a wild boar takeover.
Hundreds of the animals, which have been known to attack people when enraged, have taken over entire towns since the 2011 disaster.
According to authorities, the animals descended from surrounding hills and forests and roamed the empty streets foraging for food.
“It is not really clear now which is the master of the town, people or wild boars," Namie mayor Tamotsu Baba said, after residents partially cleared to return home freely at the end of the month.
"If we don't get rid of them and turn this into a human-led town, the situation will get even wilder and uninhabitable."
Some of the captured boars. Picture: Reuters
According to the New York Times, tests conducted on some of the wild boars show some have radioactive readings more than 300 times higher than safety standards.
Japan is set to lift evacuation orders for parts of Namie, located just four kilometres from the wrecked nuclear plant, as well as three other towns by the end of March.
Residents fled to escape radiation spewed by the Fukushima Daiichi plant, whose reactors went into meltdown after it was struck by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
In the nearby town of Tomioka, hunter Shoichiro Sakamoto leads a team of 13 assigned to catch and kill the wild boars with air rifles. Twice a week, they set about 30 cage traps, using rice flour as bait.
"After people left, they began coming down from the mountains and now they are not going back," he said. "They found a place that was comfortable. There was plenty of food and no one to come after them."
Since last April, the squad has captured about 300 of the animals, and intends to keep up its work even after the evacuation orders are scrapped, Sakamoto added.
More than half of Namie's former 21,500 residents have decided not to return, citing concerns over radiation and the safety of the nuclear plant, which is being decommissioned.
But at town meetings earlier this year to prepare for the homecoming, residents had voiced worries about the wild boars.
"I'm sure officials at all levels are giving some thought to this," Hidezo Sato, a former seed merchant in Namie, said. "Something must be done."