Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Japanese town with unprecedented bear activity deploys 'wolf monsters'

 

November 19, 2020



Haines isn’t the only town where unprecedented human-brown bear interactions are prompting municipal meetings and outcry from residents.

In Takikawa, Japan, on the northern island of Hokkaido, 12 reports of bear activity were filed with city officials, city official Hiroki Kando said in an email to the CVN. Bears have damaged crops and livestock on the island. Similar to Haines, some Hokkaido brown bears were killed and prevailing attitudes about solutions have divided residents.

“In Hokkaido, many people believe that we should try to preserve wildlife and natural habitats, including many people living in urban areas where there is little contact with wildlife,” Kando wrote. “However, there are also many people who live in more rural areas who believe in a need for more human control, including possibly shooting bears to keep the population in check.”

Similar to Haines, Japanese city officials scheduled meetings to address the brown bear issue. And while Haines’ bear task force members discussed purchasing bear dogs to deter brown bears at a meeting earlier this year, Takikawa settled on motion-activated, mechanical “monster wolves.”

“With fake fur, bared fangs and flashing red eyes, the wolf turns its head from side to side and makes howling, screeching sounds when its motion detectors are triggered,” a New York Times report says. “The screech can travel about a kilometer, and it comes in more than 60 varieties, including a dog’s bark, a hunter’s voice and gunshots.”

The city installed the monster wolves, $5,000 each, in a residential neighborhood and suburban field in September and October. Since the mechanical wolves were installed there have been no reports of rummaging bears, according to Kondo.

“The mechanical wolf, originally developed by the machinery maker Ohta Seiki, stands 2.6 feet tall and is four feet long, its maker said,” according to the Times report. “But when planted high in a field, it appears more than a match for a wild bear.”

The increased bear activity in Hokkaido is attributed to, among other factors, a shortage of acorns, squid and mackerel, Kondo said. In Haines, some have attributed poor fish runs and berry production as factors causing increased bear activity.

Chestnut Drive homeowner Kristine Harder experienced bear intrusions first hand in September when a brown bear broke through the front door of her home, shattered the glass of her car window and pushed in her garage door. She said she hopes the borough will try whatever it can to curb bear activity.

“I read about that,” Harder said of the monster wolf. “I would be the first to sign up for a mechanical wolf in my neighborhood. The borough really needs to think outside the box on the bear issue.”

Alaska Department of Fish and Game wildlife biologist Carl Koch said he thinks the monster wolf is somewhat similar to “critter getters,” a motion activated siren that some people use locally. Koch said the machine only makes one sound and that bears get accustomed to it. He thinks the multiple sounds the monster wolf makes is good, but it’s range and cost might make it difficult to implement in Haines.

“It makes sense if you have a huge field and sound isn’t going to come from the garden behind the Aspen and travel for a kilometer,” Koch said.

Since 2016, Japan has installed about 70 mechanical wolves across the country where they are used to protect crops from wild animals. Real wolves are believed to have been extinct in Japan for more than a century, according to the Times.

The Times reports that more than 13,600 bear calls have been reported across Japan since April and some Japanese have been killed and injured by brown bears.

 
 

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