Japan is home to a unique sub-species of Asiatic black bear, which are also known as moon bears because of the white crescent shaped patch of fur on their chests.
In recent years, human-bear conflicts have increased rapidly as bear populations grow and expand into rural Japanese communities. Bear sightings have peaked at a five-year high in the western and northern parts of the country.
2020 was the worst year on record for bear attacks in the country. Bears attacked a man at train station, invaded a shopping mall, and raided orchards in highly publicized attacks.
In 2019 alone, there were reportedly 157 people attacked by bears in Japan. Several of those encounters turned fatal.
Despite being protected by wildlife conservation laws, thousands of bears are killed each year as part of local governments’ pest control efforts. Ministry of Environment figures show that more than 5,500 bears were culled in 2020, approaching the record set in 2019.
Most are shot after wandering into human areas, but some are culled as part of population management, although the precise number of bears in the country is not known.
Though even more rare, brown bear sitings near towns has also increased in recent years.
A variety of measures for reducing human-bear conflicts have been implemented, but none more newsworthy than the “Monster Wolf” used to deter bears from ransacking crop fields in a similar concept to using a scarecrow to keep birds from doing the same thing.
The mechanical wolf stands 2.6 feet tall and is four feet long. When planted high in a field, it appears more than big enough to scare bears away.
The robot wolf is covered in fake fur, oversized fangs, and flashing red eyes. The wolf rotates its head from side to side and makes loud howling and screeching sounds when its motion detectors are triggered.
The sound setting comes in more than 60 different tones, including a barking dogs, a yelling voice, and gunshots.
According to reports, the robo lobos do have some serious efficacy in keeping bears away.
No more sightings of rummaging bears have been reported in the area where the robot wolves have been utilized last fall.
Bear sightings in the wild recently reached a five-year high across Japan in recent years. Both growing populations of bears and a shortage of their main food source, acorns, has lead to bears venturing deeper into agricultural land in search of crops.
These emboldened bears are beginning to get more aggressive towards humans though. Declining rural populations in Japan also means the moon bears have more uninhabited land to roam.
The monster wolf idea was originally rolled out in 2016 to protect farmlands and crops. Since then, deer, bears and monkeys have been filmed leaping away as the mechanical contraption howls.
About 70 robo-wolves are in use across the country, primarily in the southern part of the country where they protect pineapple farms from wild animals.
Japan was once home to a real species of gray wolf, although it was declared extinct in 1905.