Fighting Poaching with Rewards, Dogs, and Robots
They dubbed themselves the Kill ‘Em All Boyz, and this self-description was spot-on. This group in Washington State poached everything from elk to cougars to bears, and even domestic cats and a dog fell victim to their terrible crimes against animals—perhaps killing more than 100 animals before they were apprehended.
Poaching often brings up images of elephants, tigers, or rhinos slaughtered abroad for their body parts or skin, but by some estimates, the number of wild animals killed illegally in the United States exceeds those killed legally by licensed hunters. This means that the number of poaching victims could be in the tens of millions each year.
Staff from the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife and The HSUS with the elk decoy.
The cruelty and scope of these crimes spurred The HSUS to launch our anti-poaching campaign in 2008, and we just announced our latest project: a robotic elk decoy we donated to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A major challenge for law enforcement is the secretive nature of poaching crimes—they take place in remote areas with few witnesses; evidence can easily be destroyed; and of course, the victims can’t speak. This decoy will boost law enforcement’s effectiveness by allowing officers, the targeted animal, and the criminal to all be at the same place at once. It will be used for years to come to catch people trying to kill wildlife illegally. In Washington, there’s just one fish and wildlife police officer to cover every 490 square miles.
For this reason, we’ve joined with our affiliate the Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust to offer more than $400,000 in rewards to help law enforcement agencies catch poachers. We also work in state capitols to pass felony penalties and other laws to deter poaching crimes. We’ve sponsored dogs who help wardens sniff out poachers in California, purchased forensic equipment for conservation officers in Florida, and worked with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a crackdown on Internet wildlife trafficking.
We’re so proud to support the good work of wildlife law enforcement officials, and we encourage our members to join us in helping to combat poaching. One way to help is to save your state’s report-a-poacher tip line in your cell phone, so you’ll always be ready to report suspicious activity.