Wisconsin business owner creates robotic wildlife in effort to thwart poachers

KRONENWETTER, Wis. — A flick of the tail, a turn of the head and a stoic stance is all it takes for a whitetail deer to come to life — for the second time, and it begins in Custom Robotic Wildlife workshop.

“It all starts with a mold here. This is a laying one, so this is going to have a robotic head,” said Brian Wolslegel, owner.

Wolslegel and his family have been constructing robotic taxidermy for about 20 years.

“Gail and I started, basically, with a piece of — a little servomotor and a piece of fishing line that went from the ear to the tail, and if the ear moved, the tail would move, but obviously it’s evolved over the years,” said Wolslegel.

He has created moving animals for movies, commercials and businesses, but his main clients are wildlife law enforcement agencies in the United States and Canada.

“As the poachers advance and learn more, we do the leg movement or we do the tail. We just recently had an officer, a year or so ago, ask me for one that would poop, so he got a little auger system. The tail goes up. You name it, we do it,” said Wolslegel.

He said poaching causes a lot of problems, and even if you’re not a hunter, the public is put at risk.

“If they shoot off the roadway and it misses and it heads into somebody’s house… Like I said, this morning I just saw on the news that some lady got hit in the leg through her apartment window,” said Wolslegel.

The robotic wildlife get sold all over the nation for law enforcement, but not often in Wisconsin and that’s because the laws are different.

“Most states now, when they deploy a decoy, will say ‘attempted to take a wild animal or a facsimile of’ so they can fine them the major fines — $3,000 or whatever. In Wisconsin, they don’t do that. They don’t recognize the decoy as a wild animal, so the guys mostly will get ‘shooting from a roadway’ or ‘trespassing,'” said Wolslegel.

He said the manpower and the cost also contribute to a lack of business from the Department of Natural Resources, but law enforcement officials elsewhere have told him the bots are effective.

“I just had a guy from Nova Scotia that took his out of the box and the first guy came down the road, shot it, hit it in the neck and pretty much destroyed all of this, so he kept it out there and another guy came by and the head wasn’t even moving and still shot it again.¬†Poachers generally don’t take a small buck off the side of the road. Generally, they’re going to shoot that bigger buck, so sportsmen, the guys that are out there hunting, the guys that put their time in and put their stands up and do it right should be very upset with this,” said Wolslegel.

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