Fairbanks moose caught in rope unfazed by Taser shot

FISH & GAME: Cow rescued Jan. 2 resists efforts to recover rope.

February 15, 2011 

FAIRBANKS -- Biologists with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game have failed in their attempts to Taser a cow moose roaming a Fairbanks neighborhood with a rope around its neck.

The moose was Tasered Feb. 4 in the Hamilton Acres subdivision in east Fairbanks, with the hope it would be stunned enough that they could remove the rope. Biologists used a special wildlife Taser shipped from Southeast, but the weapon did not disable the moose.

The rope was what remained of an effort by good Samaritans who pulled the moose out of the Chena River on Jan. 2. The moose had fallen through the ice.

"We got a couple shots at her, but we couldn't get both probes to stick, probably because of her thick winter hair," said Fairbanks area biologist Don Young.

Biologist Tony Hollis was the trigger man. He shot the moose from 25 feet, the maximum distance for the Taser to be effective.

"We just could not get a good shot at 25 feet," Hollis said.

The moose "showed no reaction as if it had got shocked," he said. "It was more of a reaction to hearing the Taser go off -- it sounds like a cap gun going off -- and she took off."

At that point, biologists decided to leave the cow, which was accompanied by a calf. After watching the cow during the course of two days while they tried to get in position to Taser the moose, biologists determined the rope is not hindering her ability to breathe, eat or walk.

It was the first time state wildlife officials used a Taser on an animal in the northern region of the state, Hollis said. Officials in Southcentral and Southeast have experimented with the Taser on animals, he said.

"Using a Taser was attractive because, in theory, it drops the moose, you can run up to it, remove the rope and let her go," Hollis said. "That was the plan."

Biologists don't want to use drugs to tranquilize the moose because if something went wrong and the moose died, or it was hit by a car and killed within the next few months, the meat would not be salvageable. The meat of drugged animals can't be eaten for 90 days.

The cow appears to be in "really good shape" Young said. "She looks like she's pregnant," he said.

Since the Tasering incident was reported in the Fairbanks media, Hollis said he's seen many negative comments about using the weapon on wildlife.

"I think the main situation is that people don't understand what the Taser is and how it works, and, in fact, we're learning it," Hollis said.

The Tasers they have for moose are similar to those used to stop fleeing or threatening people by law enforcement officers, but stronger.

Biologists have to take a certification course before they can use the specialized Taser, Hollis said. During the course, they're given the opportunity to test the Taser on themselves.

"I didn't take the option," Hollis said. "Because we're not law enforcement, using it on other people, they didn't make us."

Daily News reporter Casey Grove contributed to this report.

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