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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Development of a Safer Tranquilizer Dart


Tranquilizer darts are designed to administer a compound from a distance, utilizing low velocities to minimize unnecessary injury to the animal by excessive penetration of the dart. As a result, effective distances and subsequent accuracy of the dart are problematic. It was hypothesized that a minor modification to commercially-available tranquilizer darts would allow greater velocities to be utilized by reducing some of the impact force. This should increase the effective distance of the darts while reducing potential damage to target animals if higher velocities were utilized. A foam-based conventional earplug was modified by cutting it in half to fit over a tranquilizer dart needle. Velocity and calculated impact energy produced from 2.0-cc practice transmitter darts were recorded for treatment and control darts projected at a distance of 13.72 m at two velocities. Degree of dart penetration into a block comprised of layers of a foam insulation material was recorded. Relative accuracy of darts was also collected. While no differences were observed in dart accuracy, velocity, or projected impact energy (p > 0.05), penetration of darts into the insulation block at the higher test velocity was lower (p < 0.05) for treatment darts (11.82 ± 0.30 cm) compared to controls (13.17 ± 0.36 cm). However, dart penetration into the hip of a euthanatized dog was similar (p > 0.70) between the treatment (2.21 ± 0.77 cm) and controls (2.68 ± 0.96 cm) at the higher velocity. It also appeared that degree of dart penetration was highly influenced by the angle of impact relative to the tissue. Based on dart penetration results in animal tissue, the foam based dart modification was not an effective method to reduce impact force of tranquilizer darts.

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