Kentucky wildlife officials are employing a new technology to catch poachers: robot deer. The Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife recently used evidence collected from their robo-deer to investigate a local man for hunting game illegally.
The accused man, 29-year-old James Malone, used the headlights of his SUV to “spotlight” deer, which is a crime in Kentucky regardless of the season.
Often called “shining,” the use of bright lights can often dazzle wildlife, making them easy targets. What Malone didn’t know was that his intended target wasn’t frozen, it was recording him.
“No person may deliberately cast the rays of a spotlight or other artificial light into any field, pasture, woodlands or forest,” reads Kentucky law, “where wildlife or domestic livestock may reasonably be expected to be located.”
Arresting officials say that Malone shined his lights at the robo-deer “for an extended period of time,” after which they questioned him. It was then that they discovered a rifle in the SUV and Malone confessed to a number of hunting-related crimes.
In addition, officers found what appeared to be methamphetamine in the vehicle, prompting charges in addition to illegal hunting. Malone was charged with spotlighting, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of a controlled substance, illegal taking or pursuing of a deer, hunting without a license, and criminal littering.
Malone confessed to hunting deer without a permit as well as not reporting taken game to wildlife management. In Kentucky, hunters are required to report any harvested deer to officials on the day of the hunt.
According to reports he’s being held with a $5,000 cash bond, and not for the first time. Malone has a record for illegal hunting dating back to at least last June, when he was investigated after posing with a turkey on social media.
It seems like Kentucky is stepping up their tech game to pursue poachers and other illegal hunters, and not just with their robotic deer. Wildlife officials regularly investigate reports shared on social media when residents share their trophies with the public.
Late last year wildlife officials charged a man with hunting on private property without permission, which can be a very serious violation in most states.
Wildlife officials began to investigate Robert Koch, 58, last November, after photos of his trophy buck began to make the rounds online. Koch falsely reported the location of the cull but admitted it to the game wardens.
According to the Kentucky Department of Fish & Wildlife, his buck would have been at least in the top 25 bucks taken in Kentucky, all time, but officials were forced to seize the carcass including the head, cape, and hooves.