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Robo-Deer is an effective law enforcement tool

by Stan Kirkland, FWC

Conservation law enforcement officers are always looking for tools to help them do their jobs. They have a number of things at their disposal, but one tool that’s become invaluable is the robotic deer, or “Robo-Deer,” for short.

Officers in a number of states now use robo-deer to apprehend deer poachers, but Florida’s history with the robo-deer dates back to the early 1990s. Law enforcement officers of the then-Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission began using cardboard deer cutouts. To say they were effective is an understatement.

The cut-outs were placed in fields and along wooded roads where poachers were likely to look for an easy deer to kill. Those who shot the fake deer were quickly pounced on by officers.

It soon became apparent that officers needed a more durable and realistic-looking deer, so they switched to neoprene, archery-type models. After using the archery models for a while, they switched to models covered in actual deer hair.

Perhaps the biggest switch and advancement was the use of robotics. Models today have moving parts, and from a distance they look like the real McCoy. That’s what makes them so effective.

“It really doesn’t matter which model we use; the purpose is the same,” said Capt. Ken Parramore, area supervisor with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). “The robo-deer helps us combat the opportunistic road hunter who rides around looking for a deer to shoot.”

Early on, Parramore said robo-deer were used mostly at night, but now they are used during daylight hours as well. They are particularly useful in problem areas, where there are complaints about illegal hunting and trespass.

A benefit of using robo-deer in Florida and elsewhere is the fake deer can be patched up and used again, unlike a living deer shot by poachers.

“People know they are in use, but they never know when or where. There are a small percentage of people who poach, but we want them to know they are risking a lot if they engage in this kind of activity. They can lose firearms, face stiff fines, and they can even lose their ability to purchase a license for legal hunting,” he said.

Parramore said the deterrent value of the robo-deer is amazing. He said people often comment to officers that they saw the robo-deer, when in fact officers and the robo-deer were actually nowhere in the area that day.