Tase-and-Release Hunting Under Review in Alaska

Apr 13, 2011
Outside Magazine

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If you've ever considered using a Taser to incapacitate an animal long enough to take your picture with it, don't do it in Alaska. The Alaska Board of Game passed a statewide proposal preventing the use of electronic control devices (Tasers, stun guns, etc.) on animals for catch-and-release hunting.

Although no such incidents have been reported, Taser use has been outlawed as a preventative measure. "Restricting the use of [Tasers] will reduce the risk of improper or unethical use on wildlife by the public or other agency personnel who are unfamiliar with the potential effects and hazards," according to a press release by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

"Conceivably, someone could Tase a moose or bear, go up and get a picture taken with it, shut the [Taser] off, and then release the animal," ADF&G biologist and Taser expert Larry Lewis told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. The result could be dangerous, as Tased animals often react unexpectedly -- not to mention a groggy grizzly or misty-eyed moose might not enjoy waking up with your arm around its neck.

Tasers themselves are also unpredictable and might not work as anticipated, especially during winter months when animals' thick fur could prevent probes from sticking. Some people also argue that Taser use is cruel and painful. "The zap causes involuntary muscle contractions, essentially freezing them up, but it does not affect the central nervous system," reports the Anchorage Daily News. "Animals can still breathe and think -- but can't move."

Another consequence of using electronic control devices on wildlife is that stunned animals tend not to return to the scene of the Tasing. "With all the animals, we've seen a 100 percent flight response and an aversion to the area it took place," Lewis says. "They learn not to be in that place" -- a response that was beneficial when biologists Tased a moose roaming through a Fairbanks neighborhood, but could be detrimental to animals in their natural habitats.

Under the new legislation, trained wildlife officials may continue to use Tasers to handle wildlife incidents, such as treating injured or misplaced animals. Alaska residents may only use electronic control devices to defend against wildlife attacks on life and property. Either way, "if I were in a situation where I had to defend myself from a bear in close quarters, I would not reach for my Taser," Lewis told the ADN. "I'm going to reach for the Alamo. I would not advise anybody to use a Taser as a primary mode of bear defense."

--Whitney Dreier

Filed To: Nature, Outdoor Skills

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