Wildlife in Florida have an unlikely new ally in the fight against poaching -- a remote-controlled buck lovingly known as Robo-deer. Although he can do little more than flick his tail and turn his head, Robo-deer is so convincingly lifelike that some illegal hunters can't help but take a shot at him. But when they do, those poachers end up getting served something a lot worse than steel veal -- that's because Robo-deer works for the cops.
No, Robo-deer isn't a character from science-fiction -- he's actually the latest modern tool being used by Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers to nab folks who keep on killing deer after the close of hunting season, a time when animal and man should be able to live in peace. "We have a problem with people poaching in this area," says officer Greg Stastay. "So, we're going to set up a deer for them to shoot."
That's where Robo-deer steps in. He's here to take a few bullets so his real-deer peers don't have to.
Officers are able to control Robo-deer's movements from up to 50 feet away with a radio-controlled device mounted its back. When the tempting target is placed in the brush along the roadside, folks driving by who have no qualms about hunting illegally will inevitably stop to shoot at the majestic, albeit mechanical, "animal" -- giving officers justification to step in and arrest them.
"Anybody who shoots at that deer will be arrested for illegal method and hunting deer out of season," says Stastay. Those who Robo-deer helps reveal as poachers can expect a severe punishment, too -- maximum penalties range between 60 days and one year in the slammer.
Despite the fact that he is purely mechanical at heart, the robotic buck has been gaining a bit of celebrity in his own right. Robo-deer's special crime-fighting skills are the centerpiece of tonight's episode of Operation Wild on Planet Green, a show which highlights some of the novel techniques law enforcement officials are using to protect nature's most vulnerable animals.
As poaching continues to threaten species across the globe, occasionally driving them to extinction, finding creative new methods of nabbing criminals is as important as ever. One can only wonder if more tools like Robo-deer could be successful in saving other animals as well.
Perhaps if there were a few Robo-elephants, Robo-tigers, or Robo-rhinos in the world, it would help ensure that there were more of their real-life counterparts around, too. Until then, at least wildlife in Florida can rest a little easier knowing that Robo-deer is on the job -- after all, he's part deer, part machine, and all cop.
For more on Robo-deer, tune in to Operation Wild on Planet Green tonight at 9/8c.
More on Stopping Poachers
GPS Devices Installed in African Rhinos' Horns
How to Identify Poachers
2090 Dead Endangered Anteaters Seized from Poachers