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Study: Tasers may be effective against bears, moose

May 01, 2010
  • A new study by the state Department of Fish and Game says Taser stun guns might be effective tools in wildlife management. (Phil Walczak/KTUU-DT)
A new study by the state Department of Fish and Game says Taser stun guns might be effective tools in wildlife management. (Phil Walczak/KTUU-DT)

by Jackie Bartz
Friday, April 30, 2010

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A new study by the state Department of Fish and Game says Taser stun guns may be an effective tool in wildlife management.

The popular self-defense tools are found on the hips of runners and police officers, as well as in purses and pockets all over the country.

"We meet one demographic, and that is of scared people," said self-defense expert Sarah Spindler. "I would say that our biggest-reached market is dads buying these for their daughters in college."

But the new study suggests that Tasers could go from taking down criminals to managing wildlife.

"That is the No. 1 most asked question about the Taser is: ‘What's it going to do to a moose, what's it going to do to a bear?'" Spindler said.

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A new study by the Department of Fish and Game shows that Tasers are successful in immobilizing bears and moose. The study was prompted by an unruly animal encounter, in which a female moose would not let Fish and Game wildlife technician Larry Lewis near her two trapped calves. She began charging him and an accompanying state trooper.

"He pulled out his Taser unit that they carry, and shot her over across the hood of the vehicle," Lewis said. "And when that happened, she lost muscle control in her front leg and she went down."

Lewis teamed up with other Fish and Game employees and Taser experts. He tried Tasing both captive and wild brown bears and moose.

Lewis says the Taser immobilizes both bears and moose for about 30 seconds. He says blood samples show that the animals briefly exhibit signs of stress, which quickly dissipate. He says the animals recover from being Tased faster than from being drugged.

The idea isn't without skeptics. Spindler gives Taser demonstrations to curious customers and says she would never recommend buying one for protection against wildlife.

"It is designed for people, and for the weight, for the body build of a human -- not of an animal," Spindler said.

Lewis agrees. He says Tasers should not be used on wildlife unless it's by a trained wildlife official.

"If someone were to try and shoot a charging brown bear with it, they're probably going to miss. That's not the purpose or the design," Lewis said.

The study, the first of its kind, is still in its early phases. Lewis is working with Taser International to develop a Taser specifically for wildlife and hopes it can be another non-lethal option for wildlife management officials.

Contact Jackie Bartz at jbartz@ktuu.com

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