Martial Zoo Law

Over the last couple of weeks, a number of the zookeeper and exotic pet listservs I subscribe to have read more like the classifieds in the back of Field & Stream. Obviously due to the recent tragedy at the San Francisco Zoo, these are boom times for the tranquilizer gun business. I thought I might share a little about what I’ve learned.

The Arsenal:

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Blow Guns – Good for short range, especially in cages. Wait a minute, blow guns!? Yes, and apparently they have come a long way since our great-great-grandfathers (or in my case, my uncle Jon) used them to score monkey dinners from the tree tops.

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Dart Guns – Larger dart guns are typically pump or CO2 powered and are best for animal escapes when you’ve got plenty of room to shoot. These devices frequently use an explosive charge to inject the chemical cocktail and can take 15-20 minutes to have an effect. Therefore they are more often used in field research where an animal can be darted and tracked by air or vehicle until it goes down.

(more below the fold)

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Net Guns – Yes, you heard me right. Net guns aren’t just for cartoons anymore! These apparently are a good choice when you can’t fire a dart gun because people are in the way or when you want to act out your favorite scene from Alien versus Predator.

The Training:

Apparently your best bet for quality certification in “Chemical Immobilization of Zoo & Exotics Species, Non-human Primates, and Captive Deer & Elk” is Safe Capture. At first I thought this organization was like a University of Phoenix for some kinky-subset of the NRA crowd, but upon review they are definitely legit. Their program instructors appear to be impeccably credentialed, although this last character raises some eyebrows:

Officer T. Scott Stephens, Rangemaster
Officer Stephens served as a Marine Corp Small Weapons Firearms Instructor (MOS 8531) and Rifle Range Coach from 1992-1996. He is certified in the use of M16, M249SAW, Mark 19, M60, 50 Cal. M2, M203, Glock Armor, and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles. (I did not make this up)

Anyway, they offer courses around the country and although the $500 price tag is a bit steep, this would make for one pretty freakin cool birthday gift for that special someone who is impossible to buy for…

Workshops in a Town near You!

Louisiana: Baton Rouge: LSU School of Veterinary Medicine: February 12-13, 2008

Georgia: Athens: University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine: February 23-24, 2008

New York: Lake Placid: Hilton Lake Placid Resort: February 26-27, 2008

California: Corona: (East of Los Angeles) City of Corona Training Center: March 3-4, 2008

Texas: Brenham: Washington County Fairgrounds: March 13-14, 2008
(This program will discuss only Deer, Elk, and Exotic Hoofstock)

North Carolina: Charlotte: Charlottte-Mecklenburg Police Dept: March 17-18, 2008

California: Morgan Hill: Morgan Hill Police Dept: March 31-April 1, 2008

Arizona: Phoenix: The Phoenix Zoo: April 3-4, 2008

Connecticut: Bridgeport: Beardsley Zoological Gardens: May 6-7, 2008

Virginia: Fredericksburg: Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy: August 18-19, 2008

Florida: Kissimmee: Holiday Inn Main Gate East: September 15-16, 2008

Wisconsin: Stevens Point: UW College of Natural Resources: October 25-26, 2008

Missouri: Saint Charles: Busch Conservation Area: December 8-9, 2008


  1. #1 milkshake
    January 7, 2008

    The dart kits always contain a strong antidote – not only to wake up the animal but also to treat the field researchers, should they become immobilised by accident…

    The used opiates – carfentanyl or etorphine – are incredibly potent, 10000 and 40000 times more potent than morphine. Reportedly an etorphine solution used for darting elephants and rhinos is so strong that spilled on your fingers it will put you promptly into sleep that becomes permanent unless an antidote is administered within a minute.

  2. #2 Berlzebub
    January 8, 2008

    I know Officer Stephens’ credentials may seem a bit over the top, but there may be a reason for that. Considering the various items that you showed being used, someone would need a broad range of weapons experience to be able to instruct anyone in their use. The basic premise, point and shoot, is the same, but shooting a pistol is much different than shooting a rifle.

    Plus, he’s a former Marine. Having one as a father, I know how proud they can be of their military “accomplishments”.

  3. #3 Andrew
    January 8, 2008

    Berlze – valid point. i was mostly amused with this piece of it “He is certified in the use of M16, M249SAW, Mark 19, M60, 50 Cal. M2, M203, Glock Armor, and Anti-Tank Guided Missiles.”

  4. #4 Nomen Nescio
    January 8, 2008

    for a former Marine (is there in reality any such thing as a former Marine?) who’s served in a front-line unit, actually, that range of experience isn’t very remarkable. given that he was a small arms instructor, no less, i’d suspect he may have left a few models off that list. most of ’em, naturally, he’s unlikely to ever touch again unless he gets called back up, but it certainly makes for an interesting resume.

    the Glock Armorer certification simply means he’s done a fair amount of pistol shooting as a civilian, and wanted to learn how to maintain his own gun. Glock subsidizes training specifically so the shooting world will be lousy with folks who know how to work on their products, if no other ones.

    (shoot, now i’m trying to think of fictional war stories where knowing how to use anti-tank missiles “came in handy” during an animal control job… Heinlein might’ve had fun writing such a one, i think. it’s the sort of thing i might enjoy reading, myself.)

  5. #5 Berlzebub
    January 9, 2008

    @ Andrew:

    Like Nomen pointed out, since he was a “small arms instructor”, those aren’t really remarkable. IIRC, small arms is anything that can be carried by a person.

    @ Nomen Nescio:

    I read a book, several years ago, about time travel hunting. A guide would take you back in time to hunt a T-Rex or something as dangerous. I can’t remember the title, but the book was okay. The funniest part was the very subtle insinuation that it was the time travel hunting that was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs. Since people could travel back to the same point in time, to hunt, it seemed to those observing it later that a sudden mass extinction occured.

    The irritating thing about it was that they had the technology for time travel, but all of their hunting rifles were still standard gunpowder propellent driven. You’d think that, by the time they got the necessary technology, not to mention the required power sources, for time travel, that they’d have developed a “small arms” rail gun.

  6. #6 Andrew
    January 9, 2008

    I thought that in the US military, “small arms” referred to weapons under 20 mm in caliber?

  7. #7 Benny
    January 9, 2008

    Anti-tank guided missiles are actually my preferred method for hunting whale sharks. So there you go.

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