Japanese village deploys robot wolves to scare away bears

Howling, twitching fur-covered scarecrows purchased following spate of close encounters with bears

Tim Wyatt
Thursday 12 November 2020 16:57 GMT
Japanese town deploys Monster Wolf robots to scare away bears

A Japanese town has installed two mechanical wolves in an effort to scare away marauding bears.  

Officials in Takikawa, a town of 41,000 people on the northern island of Hokkaido, had spotted bears roaming through residential neighbourhoods in September and became concerned that increased contact between the animals and humans could lead to an attack.

In response, the town bought two Monster Wolf robots to act as a deterrent to any bears which try to come into the outskirts of the town from the countryside.  

Made in a collaboration between a Hokkaido-based machinery firm and the local university, the wolves are static metallic scarecrows with four legs and a head, covered in fake fur.  

When motion detectors sense movement from a potential bear, the Monster Wolf moves its head from side to side, flashes red lights inside its eyes, and makes a variety of howling and screeching noises.  

City officials said since they had installed the two wolves, they had not had any reports of further encounters with bears in Takikawa.  

The makers of the startling-looking robot wolves said they had sold their about 70 of their invention to towns across Japan where officials were concerned about incursions by bears.  

"We want to let the bears know, 'human settlements aren't where you live', and help with the coexistence of bears and people," said Yuji Ota, head of the company that makes the Monster Wolf, in an interview with the Japanese newspaper Mainichi.

Bear sightings have been rising sharply this year in Takikawa and elsewhere in Japan, although it is unclear why.  

Normally, residents would only see about one bear a year in Hokkaido town but there have already been 10 encounters since May, leading to the municipal council deciding to purchase the unsettling mechanical wolves.  

The spike in sightings could be related to the coming hibernation period of bears, which normally starts in late November. In the final weeks before hibernation, bears are known to become more active and dangerous as they roam widely stocking up on food before the long winter months.  

Living wolves did roam the central and northern islands of Japan for millennia but have been extinct in the country in the wild since the early 20th century.

Despite this, wolves have retained a central place in Japanese culture and folklore, and are often depicted as guardians who escort travellers through dangerous mountain paths.  

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