Two hunters from Maryland were recently surprised after they received temporary hunting bans for illegally using a crossbow to hunt a deer on state property. They were caught because the deer they shot was actually a robot decoy.
The men fell victim to killing a state-owned robotic deer. Robotic deer have become very popular in recent months helping the American Wildlife Law Enforcement in their effort to stop poachers. They have assembled a small group of animals such as deer, elk, bears, turkeys, fox, and wolf look-a-likes in order to catch people from abusing their hunting privileges.
Officers have been placing the decoy animals where they have been tipped off about illegal hunters. After the animals are strategically placed, the officers sit off site using a remote to control the animal’s movements.
The project has been very successful and has spiked a demand for the decoy animals in popular illegal hunting areas.
“Demand for the decoys is huge,” shared Jim Reed of the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust with The Washington Post. “Game wardens are chronically underfunded and robo-wildlife is pricey: A deer costs about $2,000; a black bear, up to $5,000.”
So what’s the trick to making the animal’s look so life-like? They were once alive.
Brian Wolslegel, owner of the Wisconsin-based Custom Robotic Wildlife, creates the decoys from legally acquired hides from hunters, game wardens or online sources. In a year, Wolslegel can sell up to 100 whitetail deer.
“To have a poacher, a wild animal and a law enforcement officer at the same scene, it’s like winning the lottery,” Wolslegel said. “And then if the poacher is caught, ‘the animal already died in the process.’”
The robo-wildlife is pretty hard to kill. If the bullet hits in the right spot and bursts the motor, it can be replaced. Most of the animal look-a-likes are built with a styrofoam core so bullets from high-powered rifles can pass through them with little damage. Most successful decoys have already been shot at several times.
“The typical deer in the forest is not going to appear well-groomed. It may have a little mud stuck on its back, some hairs ruffled from the wind,” Reed said. “The best decoys get well-seasoned.”
Want to see if you can tell the difference between a real or robo animal? Check out the quiz at The Washington Post.