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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wildlife Taser NOT RECOMMENDED by Alaska law enforcement

Jan 21, 2011
Craig Medred, Alaska Dispatch

An Anchorage Police Department officer zapped a black bear with his Taser in Alaska's largest city last summer. The 100,000 volts flipped the bear on its back. The bear got up and ran off.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game then warned that to Taser bears is a no-no, and the APD put out a press release telling people so. Months later, though, a state wildlife official revealed he'd been using his Taser on bears for years in an effort to see if they could be trained to avoid people.

Fish and Game did add the warning that people shouldn't try that trick at home, although bear man Charlie Vandergaw had been using similar training techniques on bears for decades. Yes, Vandergaw used a cattle prod instead of a Taser, but an electrical shock is an electrical shock.

And now, for those who want to get in on shocking bears or other big animals, Taser International in Arizona has just the thing: a Wildlife Taser.

For the weak of heart, Taser's "Wildlife Taser" trumps Vandergaw's cattle prod. The former will knock a bear on its butt. The latter might just make a wild bear mad, though it seemed to work well enough on Vandergaw's semi-domesticated bears.

Fish and Game, however, is sticking to its position that shocking the animals is a no-no. Tasers should only be used by professionals, the agency says.

And the Wildlife Taser has come under attack on at least one blog that reviews the latest high-tech gadgets.

A writer for Gawker Media's Gizmodo notes use of the device wouldn't be limited to bears; it could be used on any sort of big game: " ... from elk to moose, deer and grizzlies. This would be laughable if it wasn't so obviously cruel. Taser has a point -- a very small one -- in that some bears' lives might be saved if fishermen and other adventurers in grizzly country replace the firearms they sometimes use to defend themselves from attack with Tasers. But research about bears shows that they are rarely aggressive, and most dangerous encounters are the avoidable result of human stupidity or bears' desperation, rather than rogue animals inured to humans. As for other animals -- like bison -- there's plenty of visual evidence that it's the people who are the instigators, not the animals. My worry? That this weapon, despite its high price tag (almost $2,000), could encourage a new breed of ugly, empty-headed tourist behavior: will people approach animals they should keep away from knowing that if they have an animal-felling Taser they can get away with it? Given the way regular Tasers have been misused -- with their use sometimes a first resort and then being used to deliver repeated stun shocks to boot -- it's hard to see how this hardware could encourage a better relationship between people and animals."

And, as all real Alaskans and those elsewhere who've watched Discovery's "Sarah Palin's Alaska" know, there are simpler, cheaper and easier means than a Taser for maintaining the proper relationship between people and wildlife. You get a gun; you shoot them (if you can hit them and provided that you possess proper subsistence hunting licenses, you eat them.

Thus end any worries about the animals causing problems.

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