Julia Thatcher

Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015

‘Robo-deer’ dispatched to Arizona forests to thwart poachers

A new high-tech robotic mule deer will soon be in Arizona forests to track down poachers hunting out of season.

The Mule Deer Foundation donated the so-called ‘robo-deer’ to the Arizona Game and Fish Department. The department has used similar decoys in the past; however, the new technology has made the new mule deer more lifelike. The deer’s head and tail move, and its horns can be changed to mimic live deer.

Game and Fish regulates the wildlife population, but the animals actually belong to the residents of Arizona.

“It’s important that people should know that they own that wildlife and that’s being taken from them just as if someone came into their backyard and snatched their dog,” said Mark Hart, a spokesman for the agency.

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Hunting season starts Oct. 23 for many areas across the state, but some Arizonans have been jumping the gun. Last year, Game and Fish reported citing more than 600 people who were illegally attempting to shoot wildlife. Once someone takes a shot at these new decoys, officers stationed nearby will attempt to catch the offenders. Poachers could face up to six months jail and a $750 fine.

Terry Herndon, regional director for the Mule Deer Foundation, didn’t seem to think those penalties would be enough.

“The bottom line is thieves are thieves, and that’s what these folks are,” Herndon said. “They need to spend time in jail. I think there should be confiscation of weapons, confiscation of vehicles. I think they should go after where they live too.”