Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
The state Department of Fish & Game has started field trials of a special Taser designed for use on large wildlife.
Sitka area management biologist Phil Mooney included the Tasers recently in a plan to protect researchers as they conducted a necropsy of a gray whale. Mooney says the Tasers give wildlife authorities a powerful deterrent against a brown bear, should it be needed.
Fish and Game personnel worked with the necropsy team to set up a flagged perimeter around the whale. Three scouts patrolled the flag line, and a fourth watched the beaches from an anchored boat.
In addition to the Tasers, those patrolling the perimeter were equipped with more conventional bear deterrents like cracker-shells and rifles.
Mooney says the Tasers were used successfully last year at the Port Armstrong hatchery to create “an exclusion zone” for the safety of hatchery workers. Any bear entering the zone was hit with the Taser, even if it was not creating a problem.
A beached whale, though, is a natural attractant for bears, and an important food source in the early spring.
Mooney says the plan did not call for the 17-member necropsy team to hold its ground in the event a curious bear arrived. In fact, the plan called for the exact opposite.
Mooney carried two different versions of the Taser, one with a range of 30 feet, and another with an extended range.
Mooney says both these devices are still being studied by wildlife authorities, and he also doesn’t expect the wildlife Tasers to replace conventional deterrents for the outdoor-going public.
The Tasers have other wildlife applications besides stopping a charging bear. Mooney says the devices are being studied for situations in which an animal needs to be captured temporarily.
Download Audio (MP3)