Call it the love child of RoboCop and Bambi if you like, but the Oregon State Police’s new robotic elk decoy is local wildlife’s newest savior. Designed by Wisconsin-based Custom Robotic Wildlife, the portable, 200-pound animatronic beast features a six-by-six rack of horns (removable) and a remote-controlled, nodding head. Its mission? To lure poachers—anyone hunting elk out of season, after dark, or without proper tags—to take a shot.
Since it was started in 1991, the Wildlife Enforcement Decoy’s arsenal has included fake turkeys, fake bears, and nearly every other kind of faux critter—all meant to catch trigger-happy poachers. But this is the program’s first animated elk recruit. Typically, officers station the WEDs where recent poaching activity has been reported and then observe their bait from a hidden location, waiting to see if anyone pumps it full of lead. In 2008, troopers carried out more than 200 such sting operations, bagging a total of 143 citations. (Shooting at a WED can land you a $6,250 fine and a year in jail.)
The owner of Custom Robotic, Brian Wolslegel, who supplies police across the country with decoys, says that the average robotic WED can haul in about $30,000 in fines over its life span (about five years). The $4,000 contraption is even backed by a warranty. “We guarantee everything will look good for one year,” Wolslegel says. “Well, everything except the parts that get hit by bullets.”