Conservation: Robot wolves as scarecrows | heise online


Japan’s bears are moving closer and closer to residential areas when foraging. The number of sightings is at a five-year high: instead of the usual individual encounters per year, Japan recorded a good dozen last year. In some cases, the animals also attacked, injuring or killing people.

Conservationists suggest that the bears may keep popping up near residential areas due to a lack of food. There have been fewer acorns and nuts in recent years. Especially in late autumn, the sightings increase before the bears retreat to hibernation. It is also possible that cutting down forests drives the animals closer to people.

That is why cities like Takikawa on the northern island of Hokkaido are increasingly hiring ghostly creatures as protection that seem to have sprung from a Halloween theme park: Robotic wolves measuring around 120 by 90 centimeters with bright red eyes, bared teeth, fake shaggy fur and metal legs. It was developed by the Japanese mechanical engineering company Ohta Seiki together with the universities of Hokkaido and Tokyo. Almost 70 of the “monster wolves” baptized machines are now doing their deterrent service in Japan, reports the Reuters news agency.

The monster wolves are solar powered and are attached to tall metal pillars. If your infrared sensor detects movement in the vicinity, you swing your head slowly from side to side with blinking eyes and play loud growling, howling and other noises over loudspeakers. 60 changing sounds are supposed to ensure that the bears don’t get used to the background noise and that they dare to get closer.

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According to the online newspaper Mainichi, the robo wolves, which have been manufactured since 2016, were used for the first time in a residential area in Takikawa. So far, they have been placed further away or, above all, as modern scarecrows, they were intended to prevent wild boars and deer from feasting on crops.

In any case, since Takikawa set up two robo wolves near a residential area and on the edge of a nearby field last fall, the city administration has not recorded any more bear sightings. Last year, between May and September, the townspeople were visited by around ten bears. The effect is impressive: In a YouTube video from Sankei News, not only is a young bear fleeing through a hedge after brief eye and hearing contact with the wolf. Deer and monkeys also run away at the sight of the monster wolves.


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