Deer illegally targeted by hunters in states like South Carolina, Arizona, Indiana and Ohio have a new ally in the form of a robotic doppelgänger.

So called "robo-deer" are being put to use by state game and fish departments in an increasing effort to catch poachers in the field. While the animatronic ruses have been used for several years now, it's incredibly difficult to tell the new versions from the real thing.

The $1,500-$3,000 models now feature a moving head, tail, ears and even legs. Each decoy can take up to 1,000 shots before it needs to be replaced.

While the future might yet give us robo-deer that pursue poachers on their own and detain them until law enforcement arrives, presently officers must lie in wait in areas where suspected illegal hunting is taking place.

“As soon as somebody shoots it, we’re calling out on a bullhorn,” Gabriel Paz, law enforcement program manager for Arizona's Game and Fish Department, told The agency recently took possession of a robotic "Mule deer" donated by The Mule Deer Foundation. The species, native to the West Coast, has been hit hard in recent years by an uptick in poaching.

“It’s important that people should know that they own that wildlife and that’s being taken from them just as if someone came into their backyard and snatched their dog,” agency spokesman Mark Hart added to KTAR News.

Besides deer, fish and game departments have also successfully used robotic bears, elk, owls, wolves and even gila monsters to catch poachers. As for the future? As you can see in the video below, it's only a matter of time before these things are walking around on their own.

Michael d'Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Robotic deer help catch poachers in the act
New animatronic deer feature lifelike moving head, tail, and legs.