A robot called Monster Wolf, equipped with sensors that can detect bears or vermin, is installed in an effort to scare away bears that have become an increasingly dangerous nuisance in the countryside, in Takikawa on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, in this photo taken by Kyodo October 21, 2020.

‘Monster Wolf’ robots protect Japanese town from wild bears

Image credit: Kyodo/via REUTERS

A Japanese town has deployed robot wolves in an effort to scare away wild bears that have become an ‘increasingly dangerous nuisance’ in the countryside.

The town of Takikawa on the northern island of Hokkaido purchased and installed a pair of the robots after bears were found roaming neighbourhoods in September.

City officials said there have been no bear encounters since.

Japanese national broadcaster NHK reported that bear sightings are at a five-year high, mostly in rural areas in western and northern Japan. There have also been dozens of attacks so far in 2020, two of them fatal, prompting the government to convene an emergency meeting last month to address the threat they pose to its citizens. 

The so-called ‘Monster Wolf’ robot, created by manufacturing company Ohta Seiki, consists of a shaggy body on four legs, a blond mane, and fierce, glowing-red eyes. When a bear or other animal triggers Monster Wolf's sensors, the robot's head moves, and its LED red eyes light up. Speakers inside the robot emit a variety of loud sounds – including wolf howls, gunshots, and human voices – to startle and drive off the wildlife.

“We have included many methods in its design to drive off bears, so I am confident it will be effective,” said Ohta Seiki’s president Yuji Ohta. “If this can help create an environment that bears and people can both live in, I will be happy.”

The machinery maker has sold around 70 units of the robot since 2018, with 62 communities across the country having their own versions of the robot in operation to protect their towns from wild animals, according to SoraNews24. The robotic wolves had also undergone tests in Kisarazu City in Japan’s Chiba prefecture since July 2017, proving to be very effective and caused large drops in the number of crops lost to wild boar.

Bears in Japan’s Takikawa region become more active and dangerous as they search for food before going into hibernation in late November, its officials said. And according to local media, a decrease of acorns and nuts in the wild this year may have driven the animals to venture closer to towns in search of sustenance. 

The real Japanese wolf roamed the central and northern islands of the country before being hunted to extinction more than a century ago. Meanwhile, the Hokkaido wolf species that once inhabited coastal north-east Asia went extinct back in 1889. 

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