TOKYO, Japan (AP) -- A rogue monkey believed to be searching for a mate has attacked 23 women in a northern Japan town, police said Tuesday.
About a dozen police and 30 town officials were searching for the monkey, said Shigeru Arai, deputy chief of police in Suwa town, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) northwest of Tokyo.
The attacks began Monday, when the monkey bit 14 women as they put out garbage or left home for work, Arai said. Nine more women were attacked Tuesday, he said. Most of the victims were ages 50 to 80.
Most were bit on the legs, and had minor injuries.
The nearby town of Shimosuwa issued a warning to residents of the potential danger, and advised children to travel to school in groups.
Police armed with anesthetic guns, nets and cages poked around in bushes and shook trees on a hillside in their hunt for the animal.
Arai said that monkeys normally travel in groups -- but December through February is their mating season, "and they tend to act alone when looking for a mating partner."
Attacks by monkeys -- usually the native Japanese macaque -- are not unusual in rural Japan, but one animal is rarely suspected of biting so many people.
Though their thick fur can make them appear much larger, adult macaques weigh an average of 33 pounds and stand about two feet tall.
They are a relatively familiar animal throughout the mountainous areas of Japan, but are considered an endangered species.