Rural Japanese town relies on robotic wolves to scare away bears

A rural Japanese town called Takikawa on the island of Hokkaido has been dealing with nuisance bears roaming neighborhoods within the city. The town installed a pair of Monster Wolf robots after bears were increasingly roaming in the town back in September. According to town officials, since the pair of robotic wolves had been installed, no bear encounters have been reported.Bear sightings within Japan are at a five-year high occurring mostly in rural western and northern Japan. There have been dozens of bear attacks in 2020, with two of them being fatal. As a result of the increasing bear sightings and attacks, the Japanese government held a meeting last month to address the threat. Takikawa deployed the Monster Wolf featuring four metal legs, a hairy body, blonde mane, and glowing red eyes to scare bears away.

The robotic system has motion detectors, and when they activate, the wolf moves its head, flashes lights, and makes sounds, including howling and machinery noises. The company builds a robot is called Ohta Seiki and has sold 70 units since 2018. Interestingly, wolves were part of the ecosystem of the central and northern islands of Japan before they were hunted to extinction more than a century ago.

Bears become more active and dangerous as they search for food before going into hibernation later this month. A reduction in the availability of acorns and nuts in the wild this year likely pushed the animals to venture closer to towns in search of food.

Many areas in the United States that historically had wolf populations have also seen issues as those populations have been reduced over the years. The absence of wolves is particularly noted in areas where elk have overrun cities, causing damage and, at times, attacking people because there are no natural predators left in the environment.