The residents of Takikawa, located on the northernmost island of Hokkaido, have been increasingly concerned by the potential of bear attacks, as sightings in the country hit a five-year high, according to national broadcaster NHK. There have been dozens of reported attacks this year, two of them fatal, leading to an emergency government meeting last month to address the issue.
Conservationists speculate the increase in bear attacks may be due to a shortage of acorns in the wilderness, which has caused the bears to inch closer to cities in search of food ahead of hibernation. Deforestation and subsequent habitat loss have only exacerbated the problem, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
In response, the town purchased and installed a couple of the so-called “Monster Wolf” robots in September. Officials recently said there have been zero reports of bear encounters since.
The scarecrow-like robots have shaggy bodies, four legs, blond manes and glowing red eyes. If the motion detectors are activated, they move their heads, flash the lights in their eyes and project up to 60 equally-horrifying sounds, including howls.
Ohta Seiki, the company behind the machine, told Reuters that it has sold nearly 70 of the robots since 2018. They are placed in various locations around Japan to protect crops and neighborhoods from wild animals.
According to the The Mainichi newspaper, the Takikawa robots mark the first time they have been installed in front of houses in an attempt to protect humans.
“We want to let the bears know, ‘Human settlements aren’t where you live,’ and help with the co-existence of bears and people,” Yuji Ota, the head of Ohta Seiki, told The Mainichi