The wild bears had been turning into greater than a nuisance, lumbering right into a small Japanese metropolis on the northern island of Hokkaido searching for meals and growing the chance of lethal encounters with people.
As bear sightings, and the hazard, elevated, officers within the metropolis of Takikawa, inhabitants 40,000, turned to a mechanical answer.
In September and October, officers put in a “Monster Wolf” close to a residential neighborhood and one other in a subject in a suburban space to maintain the wild bears at bay.
The mechanical wolf, initially developed by the equipment maker Ohta Seiki, stands 2.6 ft tall and is 4 ft lengthy, its maker mentioned. But when planted excessive in a subject, it seems greater than a match for a wild bear.
With faux fur, bared fangs and flashing purple eyes, the wolf turns its head backward and forward and makes howling, screeching sounds when its movement detectors are triggered. The screech can journey a few kilometer, and it is available in greater than 60 varieties, together with a canine’s bark, a hunter’s voice and gunshots.
That means, bears wouldn’t get used to the sound, based on Shuji Sasaki, director of Wolf Kamuy, the corporate in command of the mechanical wolf’s gross sales and upkeep.
Takikawa’s gambit appears to have been a roaring success, Hiroki Kondo, a metropolis official, mentioned. No extra sightings of rummaging bears have been reported because the robo-wolves confirmed up.
Bear sightings within the wild have reached a five-year excessive throughout Japan in latest months, based on official figures. Since April, 13,670 reviews had been filed. Quite a few assaults this yr have left residents injured or killed, and bears have been shot useless. The latest assaults, together with two deadly ones, led to an emergency authorities assembly final month to sort out the menace, based on native media reviews.
Brown bears had been not often seen in Takikawa — about one each few years — however residents have reported about 10 sightings within the metropolis this yr, Mr. Kondo mentioned. On Sept. 14, some residents advised metropolis officers they may “see a bear from the window” of their home. Three days earlier than, the town authorities had obtained reviews of a bear cub in the identical space, based on native reviews. That led to the deployment of the mechanical wolves.
A scarcity of acorns and shrinking rural populations — which function a buffer between the wilderness and the extra populated city areas — are among the many components pushing the wild bears into different areas searching for meals forward of their hibernation.
Yuji Ota, the chief government of Ohta Seiki, advised Japan’s public broadcaster NHK final month that the robo-wolf might assist people and bears “coexist,” chasing the animals again into the mountains.
“We want to let the bears know, ‘Human settlements aren’t where you live,’” he additionally advised The Mainichi newspaper.
The Monster Wolf was initially rolled out in 2016 to guard farmlands and crops. Since then, deer, bears and monkeys have been filmed leaping away because the mechanical contraption howls. About 70 wolves are in use throughout the nation, from Hokkaido to the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa, the place they defend pineapple farms from wild animals.
As for actual wolves, they’re believed to have been extinct in Japan for greater than a century.