MEDFORD -- Some of Oregon's more seasoned elk poachers have learned to sidestep getting caught in a backwoods wildlife-enforcement-decoy sting by following the mantra, "If it ain't movin', we ain't shootin'."
"In fact, we even hear them yell that to each other," says Lt. Steve Lane from the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division. "They know that if it doesn't move, it's probably a decoy."
Let poachers keep thinking that elk decoys are as motionless as a Beefeater guard, because that will help the OSP bust these wildlife criminals one shaken head at a time.
Troopers now have a new robo-elk decoy that sports a remote-controlled mechanism that makes its head move, giving it a new level of animation in the ongoing fight against the illegal killing of Oregon's biggest land mammals.
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"Just that little bit of movement can make the difference with these seasoned poachers," says Lane, who heads the OSP's wildlife enforcement efforts. "I'll be interested to see how effective it becomes."
This latest tool in the anti-poaching arsenal comes courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States, whose Wildlife Land Trust spent the $4,000 necessary to buy and ship the decoy from a Wisconsin firm that specializes in robo-mounts.
The full-bodied Rocky Mountain elk has detachable six-by-six point antlers so it can look like anything from a herd bull to a fat cow.
OSP troopers expect to get another set of smaller antlers for use primarily on the west side.
Like with decoy deer and turkeys, the robotic elk will be used primarily to go after poachers targeting animals out of season, in closed areas or at night.
It's also good enough to pass as a Roosevelt elk, meaning it will help corner poachers on either side of the Cascades -- without a real elk having to die to make a case.
Poachers shooting at decoys face possible prosecution for a Class A misdemeanor, punishable upon conviction of up to a year in jail, fines of up to $6,250 and loss of hunting privileges for two years in Oregon and surrounding states.
Poachers also face restitution if the decoy -- often called Scruffy because of its bullet-riddled hide and .270-caliber ear piercings -- is damaged in the case.