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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Use of an Electronic Control Device in Wildlife Management: A Case Series


The Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) Division of Wildlife Conservation personnel routinely respond to situations in which they must safely and effectively modify an animal’s undesirable behavior or restrain an animal to allow for a rapid disentanglement, injury assessment, or other short-term intervention. In hazing or aversive conditioning situations, traditional methods and tools may fail to correct the undesirable behavior and lethal force may be the only option left. Incapacitating drugs are routinely deployed for restraint and have a good safety record, but can be time consuming and carry inherent risks to the animal both from the delivery systems (e.g., puncture of vital structures) or the drugs themselves (e.g., overdose or other adverse drug reaction and, in some cases, a prolonged recovery period possibly leaving the animal more susceptible to environmental hazards and predators). There is also the risk of accidental human exposure to the drug through the handling and delivery process and in bounced and/or unrecovered darts in residential and other high public-use areas. The use of electricity for wildlife mitigation is not a novel concept. Electric fences for animal exclusion and captivity are widely accepted and in common use. Hand-held electric jab-sticks have also been routinely used in both domestic animal and captive wildlife facilities since the 1950s for staff protection. However, the use of portable, targetable, distance-delivered electronic systems designed to incapacitate and cause noxious stimuli for hazing or aversive conditioning is a new concept in wildlife management, and is based on the modern TASER® Electronic Control Devices (ECD). Law enforcement officers have used these devices for over a decade to safely gain control of non-compliant, combative, and suicidal persons. We present 11 cases of the use of an ECD in the management of common wildlife-related calls for service to ADF&G. This case series demonstrates that ECDs may have a role in wildlife management for 1) temporary restraint and control, 2) hazing and/or aversive conditioning, and 3) personnel safety.

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