In response to the increasing encounters between wild bears and humans in Takikawa, a city on the northern island of Hokkaido, Japan, a novel approach has been taken to mitigate this issue: the deployment of robot wolves. These intimidating mechanical creatures, aptly named “Monster Wolf,” were developed by Ohta Seiki, a machinery maker, and are now maintained and distributed by Wolf Kamuy.
The robot wolves were initially designed to protect farmlands from wild animals, but their application has expanded to cover highways, golf courses, and pig farms. These wolf-like machines have a fierce appearance with exposed teeth, glowing red eyes, and an intimidating screech aimed at deterring bears from approaching populated areas. Covered in artificial fur, the robot’s head can swivel from side to side, mimicking the movements of a real wolf.
What sets the Monster Wolf apart is its ability to produce a variety of howling and screeching sounds upon detecting motion. These sounds, with over 60 different variations, range from a dog’s bark to a hunter’s voice and gunshots. Audible up to a kilometer away, they create a powerful deterrent effect.
Measuring 2.6 feet in height and stretching to a length of four feet, the robotic wolves are strategically placed to match the size of wild bears, creating a formidable presence. The success of this innovative deterrent is evident, with reports suggesting a reduction in bear foraging since the installation of these machines.
Wild bears, driven by hunger upon emerging from hibernation in April, forage actively for food, making this period particularly prone to bear encounters. September and October also witness heightened bear activity as the animals seek to accumulate fat reserves for the impending winter months.
In 2021, the region experienced a spike in bear-related incidents, including fatal encounters and injuries. With an estimated population of 12,000 brown bears and 10,000 Asian black bears in the Hokkaido region, the introduction of robotic wolves stands as a proactive measure to enhance public safety and preserve the delicate balance between humans and the wildlife in this picturesque part of Japan.