If you were a law enforcement official searching for hunters who don't follow the rules, what would be a good gift for you? In 'Robot Deer Captures Poachers,' Brian Bull, reporting from Mosinee, Wisconsin, writes that you can buy robotic decoys for deer, elks, moose and even bears. These life-like creatures are made of animal hides or skins attached to polyurethane foam bodies and equipped with remotely controlled motors allowing the head and tail to move. After you pay about $2,000 for such a robo-deer, you put it on a side road. All you have to do is wait for an illegal hunter trying to shoot the fake deer and fine him. Many officers have reported collecting well over $30,000 in fines with a single robot. Not a bad deal...
This story has been published by Voice of America News, but originally appeared on Marketplace, a talk-show from American Public Media. Here is a link to the original transcript from December 14, 2006, "It looks so life-like... BLAM!" which contains an image gallery from which I've extracted two pictures.
Below is a photo of Brian Wolslegel, CEO of Custom Robotic Wildlife, holding a robo-deer, which weighs about 20 pounds (Credit for photo and caption: Brian Bull). Here is a link to a larger version.
And on the picture below, "David Youngquist, a conservation warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, puts final adjustments to 'Donald' [as is named the robotic deer,] before staking out drive-by poachers" (Credit for photo and caption: Brian Bull). And here is a link to a larger version
These robotic decoys are built by Custom Robotic Wildlife, a small company based in Wisconsin. And here is why law enforcement officials like these decoys.
The life-like creatures with motor-driven heads and tails cost about $1300 apiece. But [Colonel Jeff Gray of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department] points out that the poachers they help catch are fined hundreds of dollars, so they pay for themselves soon enough. "Something like a loaded gun in a motor vehicle is punishable by up to a $1200 fine. For some of the more serious offenses like illegal night hunting, the fines are up to $2400." Gray says he has limited staff and funding, so the mechanical decoys help him get more bang for his buck.
And is the company successful? Apparently, it is selling 200 to 300 units per year. "We probably do about 50 to 60 white tail deer, 30 elk, 30 to 40 turkeys, and a couple moose," [Wolslegel] estimates.
For more information, you should look at the decoys section of the Custom Robotic Wildlife website. You should also read the frequently asked questions page. Here is a selection of questions and answers.
What happens when the decoys are shot? Custom Robotic Wildlife, Inc. has a complete replacement parts list available and many of the parts can be easily repaired even in the field. [You can find the prices for replacement parts on the site.]
Are other animals available that are not on the web site? Yes, we would be happy to give you a quote on mounting any type of animal you need, our price list covers the animals that are most commonly requested.
So if you want a robotic snake or alligator in your garden to surprise your guests during your next party, all you have to do is find a skin and call the company.
Sources: Brian Bull, via Voice of America News, December 20, 2006; and various websites
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