Robots in wolves’ clothing turned out to be a useful investment for a small Japanese town in late 2020. Amidst growing accounts of bear encounters and sightings around the northern island town of Takikawa in September, city officials deployed the “Monster Wolf” robot to tackle the problem.
The two robots were installed around farmland, and were meant to scare away intruders. The “Monster Wolf” is a shaggy body on four legs, with a blond mane and glowing-red eyes. When its motion detectors are activated, it moves its head, flashes lights, and emits 60 different sounds including howling and machine-like noises. The robots are manufactured by Ohta Seiki, which has sold around 70 units since 2018.
According to Japanese news outlet Kyodo News, there were 13,670 bear sightings across the various islands in Japan from April to September 2020 — the highest number for this time period since 2016. There have also been dozens of bear attacks, with two of them resulting in fatalities. Takikawa city officials said bears were searching for food before their hibernation period in late November, and a decrease of their usual sources of nutrition in the wild may have driven them closer to towns in search of sustenance.
Real wolves once roamed Japan’s forests more than a hundred years ago, but have been hunted into extinction. And the robot wolves appear to be doing the job since city officials say there were no reported bear encounters after the robots were installed.