Escaped N.Y. Convicts May Have Used Pepper to Elude Capture

Escaped convicts Richard Matt and David Sweat may have used black pepper to effectively throw police dogs off their trails. mygoodpix/ Shutterstock

Richard Matt and David Sweat, the two killers who broke out of a maximum security facility in New York earlier this month, may have used black pepper to throw police dogs off their trails.

Near the spot where Matt was killed on June 26, police found a discarded pepper shaker with Sweat's DNA on it, an indication that the two men stuck together for most of their time on the run. Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico of the New York State Police told the NY Times that the black pepper was likely used to mask their scent from tracking dogs.

“We did have difficulty tracking, so it was fairly effective in that respect,” he said.

While the two convicts' prison break was eerily similar to on from the film "The Shawshank Redemption," their use of black pepper also has pop culture roots in the film "Cool Hand Luke." Paul Newman's character, on the run from police, asks some kids for chili powder, black pepper and curry to help hide his scent from pursuing bloodhounds.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the press after Sweat's capture yesterday: “If you were writing a movie plot, they would say that this was overdone."

But is pepper really an effective agent in warding off the keen nose of a bloodhound? A 2008 episode of the Discovery Channel series "Mythbusters" found that while it might buy you a bit of time, eventually the dog will be back on your heels. "The bloodhound was briefly confused," the two hosts reported, "but it soon rediscovered the trail and found Adam."

According to some, the best way to avoid bloodhounds is to outlast them with good cardio much like zombies.

"Run the first mile hard in 5 minutes, then run an easy 6-7 minute mile pace for the next couple miles and they will never catch you," wrote one commenter in a Quora discussion on the topic. "The handler needs to keep up too. Most agents are trained to be physically strong, not fast plus those boots, vests, pants, etc... have no chance against someone who can run even at a high school varsity level."

Better yet: don't do something that would cause police to bring the dogs out in the first place.