Never mind the Tasers and high-powered weaponry in their vehicles. When law enforcement officers arrived around 6 a.m. recently to deal with three moose on Interstate 90 near Liberty Lake, they were armed with guns you can buy at a toy store.
Washington state troopers blocked I-90 traffic while state Fish and Wildlife police “escorted” three yearlings out of traffic toward the Spokane River. To keep the moose moving, the officers used paintball guns.
“Two officers went at them on foot and stung them every now and then with the paintball guns,” said Capt. Mike Whorton of the Washington Fish and Wildlife department. “Pretty soon they ran across all four lands of I-90 and out of the way of traffic.”
Whorton said one of his officers tested his own paintball gun last year for harassing and moving wildlife out of danger. The test was so successful, a local sportsmen’s group has purchased paintball guns for all of the area Fish and Wildlife police, he said.
“Paintball guns can get off a lot of shots rapidly and accurately,” he said. “They are so much more effective and cost effective than the rubber bullets we had been firing out of 12-gauge shotguns. And aside from some pink paint on their rumps, the paintballs don’t do any more than sting the moose.”
The larger issue, Whorton emphasized, is that the Liberty Lake area is a natural migration corridor for moose, elk and deer.
“The Department of Transportation needs to install a freeway underpass for wildlife in that area,” he said. “It’s a safety issue for wildlife and the motorists. A woman was killed near there after hitting a moose a couple of years ago.”