The hunt for Japan’s ‘ghost’ wolves Could an apex predator, thought to be extinct for 100 years, still be roaming the Japanese mountains? Some enthusiasts think they have the evidence. Hiroshi Yagi was driving through the Chichibu Tama Kai National Park when the animal came up from the stream on his left, passed in front of him and stopped about two metres (6.5ft) away from his car. It showed no fear as he edged towards it, firing off several photographs. The creature was apparently unfazed by the presence of a human. Either it was comfortable being around humans, or felt unthreatened because of its status as the apex predator in this habitat. “This was 23 years ago, and I didn’t have much technical knowledge then,” says Yagi. “But I thought, ‘This must be a wolf’.” Yagi, a keen mountaineer, spends a lot of time in the mountains around Chichibu in central Japan, but this was the first time he had come face to face with an animal he had spent the best part of his life searching for. “I decided I would try and give him an osenbei (a rice cracker) and put out my hand and offered it to him,” says Yagi. “I am right-handed, so I offered the cracker to him in my left, thinking that even if he bit my left arm, I would be alright." “He was right in front of me at this point. I had brought the rice cracker right under his mouth. But he didn’t take it. He just stood there. I tried to see if he smelled like a wild animal, but he didn’t. He had no smell. And just like a new-born baby, he had no knowledge or fear of danger.” Wolves have been extinct in Japan for at least 100 years, according to scientific records. The last known Japanese wolf remains were bought by a zoologist in 1905 who sent the pelt to the Natural History Museum, London. One of the 19 photographs Yagi took of the wolf-like animal that confronted him in 1996. (more on the link) .