Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/09/2003 08:10 AM RES

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 147-CONTROL OF NUISANCE WILD ANIMALS                                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0125                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FATE announced that the next order of business would be                                                                   
SENATE BILL NO. 147, "An Act relating to control of nuisance                                                                    
wild animals; and providing for an effective date."                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0224                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
ROBERT DORAN testified as follows:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     We  started  a  business  approximately  one  year  ago                                                                    
     dealing  with problem  wildlife  or  ... animal  damage                                                                    
     control.  And we would like  to see this bill passed so                                                                    
     that we  can greatly  serve the public  in Southcentral                                                                    
     Alaska.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
     We're  seeing a  tremendous  amount of  growth in  this                                                                    
     area.  We're also seeing  more and more residential and                                                                    
     commercial  developments  constructed   very  near  two                                                                    
     prime  wildlife   habitats.    And  ...   anyone  who's                                                                    
     traveled through Anchorage, I'm  sure they can see that                                                                    
     even  despite these  changes, many  of  the species  of                                                                    
     birds and animals continue  using these developed areas                                                                    
     for protection and foraging.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
     These  factors,  along with  little  or  no hunting  or                                                                    
     trapping    pressure,   creates    a   potential    for                                                                    
     confrontations  to arise  between people  and wildlife.                                                                    
     And even  if the  location allowed for  regular hunting                                                                    
     or  trapping, many  of these  problems  occur when  the                                                                    
     regular  season  for  several  species  of  animals  is                                                                    
     closed.   And  a  provision in  Alaska  state law  that                                                                    
     would allow  a licensed individual specializing  in the                                                                    
     control  of   problem  wildlife  to   control  nuisance                                                                    
     animals outside  of the regular season  would alleviate                                                                    
     this problem.                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     If  properly  regulated,  many  people  in  the  public                                                                    
     service industry and  different agencies would benefit.                                                                    
     Based upon  conversations that I  have had  with state,                                                                    
     borough, and  municipal agencies, including  the Alaska                                                                    
     Department  of  Fish  & Game  [ADF&G],  Anchorage,  and                                                                    
     [Matanuska-Susitna]  animal control  shelters, as  well                                                                    
     as  the Alaska  State  Troopers,  Division of  Wildlife                                                                    
     Protection,  I've  found   that  these  agencies  often                                                                    
     either  don't  have  the  time   or  the  personnel  or                                                                    
     resources to ... adequately  deal with these conflicts.                                                                    
     And  with them  being  able to  refer problem  wildlife                                                                    
     calls to a licensed nuisance wildlife control operator                                                                     
      [NWCO], this would relieve these and other agencies                                                                       
     from this responsibility.                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 0395                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR.  DORAN  suggested  local  agencies   also  could  benefit  by                                                               
gathering  data from  NWCOs to  evaluate urban  impacts on  local                                                               
wildlife  populations  and surrounding  habitats.    He said  the                                                               
evidence of these kinds of benefits  can be seen in the Lower 48,                                                               
where animal  damage control companies  work in  cooperation with                                                               
local  game  departments and  offer  a  valuable service  to  the                                                               
public.  This  is a relatively new business  nationwide, and very                                                               
new  in Alaska.   He  emphasized that  it is  a "people  service"                                                               
dedicated to serving the general public.                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
MR. DORAN, in response to  a question from Representative Cissna,                                                               
explained that  this business  is similar to  pest control.   But                                                               
rather than dealing with insects,  it deals with various wildlife                                                               
species.    Examples  are  pigeons   nesting  atop  a  commercial                                                               
building  where  the  droppings   can  become  a  hazard  through                                                               
entering  the building  via the  heating and/or  air-conditioning                                                               
systems,  squirrels  living  in   somebody's  attic,  or  beavers                                                               
causing  problems  by  damming  waterways  and  flooding  highway                                                               
rights-of-way.    He  said it's  difficult  to  anticipate  every                                                               
situation, and situations he's responded to have been unique.                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
Number 0579                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE alluded to  the sponsor statement and asked                                                               
how snow geese are a nuisance, other than perhaps to aircraft.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. DORAN answered  that when first pursuing this  he'd talked to                                                               
Phil Cole  (ph), at that  time in  charge of special  permits for                                                               
ADF&G, who'd  suggested that  Mr. Doran  list every  species he'd                                                               
want  to  or  be  able  to deal  with.    Reiterating  that  it's                                                               
difficult to  anticipate what types  of calls would  be received,                                                               
he said the desire was to  include "just about every species that                                                               
is indigenous  or migrates  to the  state of  Alaska."   He noted                                                               
that one  call he'd received  from ADF&G was about  an alligator,                                                               
which he'd never thought he'd get a call about in Alaska.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
Number 0751                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
JACQUELINE  TUPOU,  Staff to  Senator  Lyda  Green, Alaska  State                                                               
Legislature,  presented  SB  147  on  behalf  of  Senator  Green,                                                               
sponsor.  She explained that  it provides authority for the Board                                                               
of Game to  deal with nuisance wild  animals, specifically, small                                                               
mammals and  wild birds.   It does this in  two ways.   First, it                                                               
creates  a professional  license  so people  like  Mr. Doran  can                                                               
offer this service.  Second, it  gives authority to ADF&G so that                                                               
it can  grant authority to people  to deal with these  animals in                                                               
their own  homes.   Thus the animals  are protected  from persons                                                               
who lack  knowledge of their  behavior patterns; people  can call                                                               
ADF&G and be referred to a list  of persons such as Mr. Doran who                                                               
offer this service.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
MS.  TUPOU informed  members  that  the list  of  animals in  the                                                               
sponsor statement  isn't definitive.   One provision of  the bill                                                               
is that  regulations don't  go into effect  until July  2004 [for                                                               
Sections 2,  3, and 5 of  the Act]; this provides  the department                                                               
ample time to  determine what animals [should be  included].  The                                                               
list  hasn't been  created because  the regulations  haven't been                                                               
written; that  is something  the department  will do  through its                                                               
process.     She  noted  that  department   representatives  were                                                               
available to testify.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 0900                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  GATTO asked  about procedures  to date  for doing                                                               
what this bill sets out for the future.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
MS.  TUPOU  deferred  to  the  department,  which  she  said  has                                                               
different rules and  regulations for big game, for  example.  She                                                               
offered  her understanding  that  this has  been  a loophole  for                                                               
which the  department doesn't have the  specific authority unless                                                               
the animals  are in season.   Thus the department doesn't  have a                                                               
list  of  referrals if  a  private  citizen  is worried  about  a                                                               
porcupine in the yard, for example.                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 0979                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  said she grew  up with people  calling the                                                               
Cooperative  Extension for  answers  to certain  questions.   She                                                               
asked whether people could call the  Board of Game for answers on                                                               
to how to deal with bats in their homes, for example.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MS. TUPOU deferred to the department.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1041                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MATT ROBUS,  Director, Division of Wildlife  Conservation, Alaska                                                               
Department  of Fish  &  Game,  addressing Representative  Gatto's                                                               
question  about how  these situations  have been  handled before,                                                               
noted that it  relates to testimony he was planning  to give.  He                                                               
said when  [ADF&G's] permitting authorities were  defined through                                                               
various  legislation, "nuisance"  was specifically  left out  the                                                               
last time.   For example, ADF&G  has authority to issue  a permit                                                               
for people to  take wildlife if something escalates  to the point                                                               
of being a  public safety problem or if it's  for a scientific or                                                               
educational  purpose.   However,  there have  been situations  in                                                               
which,  when asked,  the department  has been  unable to  issue a                                                               
permit to allow somebody to deal with a nuisance situation.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS  reported that the  U.S. Fish and Wildlife  Service has                                                               
issued a  permit, for instance,  when a  raven nest needed  to be                                                               
removed  from  a  crane  boom in  the  springtime;  however,  the                                                               
department couldn't  do so  without somehow  deeming it  a public                                                               
safety problem.   With this legislation, [ADF&G] will  be able to                                                               
authorize commercial  operators who get a  license or individuals                                                               
who have  a nuisance  problem to  try to  deal with  that problem                                                               
through  one  of  the  department's  permits.   Thus  it  adds  a                                                               
capability that the department hasn't had.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS  noted  that  for   beaver,  the  department  has  the                                                               
capability  already  to  allow  people to  remove  them  under  a                                                               
"depredation permit" under a special  regulation.  He offered his                                                               
belief  that for  porcupines, there  are no  limits, seasons,  or                                                               
restrictions,  but  said  the  department  often  is  called  for                                                               
expertise on  removal; he noted that  a shovel and bag  aren't as                                                               
good as a garbage bucket and a piece of plywood.                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
Number 1237                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE GATTO posed a scenario  in which a person wants to                                                               
build a  church and buys  20 acres of land,  but there is  a tree                                                               
with an eagle's nest.  He asked whether that's a "nuisance".                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS answered that both  a federal Act and state regulations                                                               
deal  with  that,  but  it   wouldn't  fall  under  the  nuisance                                                               
regulations [under the bill].  He added:                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
     Any migratory  bird is under the  umbrella jurisdiction                                                                    
     of  the  U.S.  Fish  and  Wildlife  Service  under  the                                                                    
     Migratory  Bird Treaty  Act.   And,  therefore, we  can                                                                    
     only permit  to the extent  that the feds  have already                                                                    
     decided  to permit,  on any  migratory bird.   So,  for                                                                    
     instance, if we wanted to  move a raven's nest or issue                                                                    
     a nuisance  permit to  deal with  some geese  that were                                                                    
     depredating  somebody's   grain  field  and   that  was                                                                    
     considered  a nuisance,  rather  than  a public  safety                                                                    
     problem,  we could  go ahead  and do  it, but  we could                                                                    
     only  do it  within  the sideboards  set  by a  federal                                                                    
     permit that  has already  been issued.   And ...  we do                                                                    
     lots of  ... scientific educational permits  under that                                                                    
     very scenario.                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
Number 1336                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS  returned to  Representative Heinze's  earlier question                                                               
about seeking  information similar  to that from  the Cooperative                                                               
Extension.  He said that  hadn't been considered in analyzing the                                                               
bill, but  added, "If  the Cooperative  Extension had  people who                                                               
wanted to  be authorized to do  that type of thing,  we would now                                                               
have the authority to at least consider permitting doing that."                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE HEINZE  asked whether citizens could  call [ADF&G]                                                               
for information about bats in the attic, for example.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS answered:                                                                                                             
                                                                                                                                
     One of  the big  jobs that  our area  management people                                                                    
     throughout  the state  in our  23 offices  do is  field                                                                    
     calls  like that  every  year. ...  I've  been in  that                                                                    
     position, ...  caught between wanting to  be of service                                                                    
     and wanting to get the rest  of your work done.  And so                                                                    
     we often  give a  whole lot of  advice over  the phone.                                                                    
     We try not to advise people  to do things that we don't                                                                    
     have  the  authority  to  do or  they  don't  have  the                                                                    
     authority to do.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
     But yes,  ... we issue  a lot of  Extension-type advice                                                                    
     as the  wildlife experts  for the  state, and  I'm sure                                                                    
     we'll always  continue to  do so.   But now  [with this                                                                    
     legislation] we  can actually  tell somebody,  "You may                                                                    
     go ahead  under this permit  and take an animal."   And                                                                    
     take ... means a wide  variety of things, anything from                                                                    
     killing the animal to moving  it to hazing it - scaring                                                                    
     it away.   You can't do  any of that legally  unless we                                                                    
     authorize it.   But now  we'll be  able to do  that for                                                                    
     nuisance animals.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS  pointed out  that  this  isn't  defense of  life  and                                                               
property.  When issuing these  permits to private individuals and                                                               
commercial operators,  [ADF&G] generally would take  the approach                                                               
that nonlethal methods are preferable,  escalating from there and                                                               
eventually  getting into  lethal  take, if  necessary.   He  also                                                               
noted  that the  effective date  is a  year from  July 1  for the                                                               
commercial part,  but recalled that the  noncommercial part takes                                                               
effect July  1 of this  year, so [ADF&G] could  immediately begin                                                               
to  issue  permits to  people  who  have problems  with  nuisance                                                               
animals.                                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1510                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE LYNN recalled reading  about an Alaskan university                                                               
where a  [northern goshawk] attacked  someone.  He  asked whether                                                               
this bill would apply in such a case.                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
MR.  ROBUS said  yes, if  it were  judged a  nuisance.   It might                                                               
already  be judged  a public  safety  problem, for  example.   He                                                               
pointed out, however, that northern  goshawks are uncommon enough                                                               
that the  department would look  long and hard  before disturbing                                                               
the nesting situation.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
Number 1578                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA   returned  attention   to  Representative                                                               
Gatto's hypothetical  situation involving  an eagle's nest.   She                                                               
asked  what latitude  [ADF&G] would  have with  this.   She noted                                                               
that protection of eagles falls under federal law.                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS answered that he isn't  sure that falls under the scope                                                               
of  this Act  and that  he hadn't  read up  on the  [federal Bald                                                               
Eagle  Protection Act]  lately.   He noted  that [ADF&G]  advises                                                               
land-management  agencies  and  other permitting  agencies  about                                                               
what can and cannot be done.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. TUPOU offered her interpretation  that the word "small" would                                                               
preclude eagles' inclusion in the legislation.                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 1669                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
MR. ROBUS,  in response to  a question from  Representative Gatto                                                               
about nests, said:                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     If it's an  inactive nest, I think  we'd determine that                                                                    
     it's just  a bunch  of sticks.   But  if ...  there has                                                                    
     been activity in the nest  and there's eggs in the nest                                                                    
     or  birds around  the nest,  then  we'd probably  treat                                                                    
     that ... as a nuisance.                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FATE  remarked that  he believes  this legislation  fills a                                                               
void in the statutes.                                                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
Number 1744                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
KAREN DEATHERAGE,  Defenders of Wildlife, noting  that she hadn't                                                               
been aware of the bill, told  members she'd served three years on                                                               
the  urban wildlife  taskforce in  Anchorage,  which has  clearly                                                               
defined a  lot of "nuisance  animals," mostly exotic  species but                                                               
also some small  mammals and birds like magpies.   She said, "The                                                               
department up here  has got another person working  with the area                                                               
biologist to  assist in  some of these  calls."   Emphasizing the                                                               
importance  of  wildlife  to  people  living  in  Anchorage,  she                                                               
suggested the need  for concern about any  permitting system that                                                               
might endanger  what people  consider valuable,  whether it  is a                                                               
porcupine [or other animal].                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MS. DEATHERAGE expressed concern,  first, about whether the Board                                                               
of Game  will have jurisdiction  over the department  in allowing                                                               
these permits;  she offered her  belief that any  decision should                                                               
come from  the department.   Second, she expressed  concern about                                                               
whether  this will  create a  heavier burden  for the  department                                                               
with regard  to enforcement and ensuring  there is no abuse  of a                                                               
permit system.  She questioned whether  this is a major issue out                                                               
there and causing stress on  the department now, except for calls                                                               
relating to bears and moose.  She told members:                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
     I'm aware of bear calls  and moose calls because I work                                                                    
     closely with  ADF&G up here  in Anchorage.  And  one of                                                                    
     the   things   we've   done   very   successfully   and                                                                    
     cooperatively  is educate  the  public.   And that  has                                                                    
     created huge,  huge differences in the  number of calls                                                                    
     and even  the number of  bears, for example,  that have                                                                    
     been  killed as  a result  of being  a nuisance,  quite                                                                    
     frankly.                                                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MS. DEATHERAGE  acknowledged that  this may  be a  positive bill,                                                               
but said she wanted to put forth those questions and concerns.                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
Number 1927                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR FATE asked whether anyone else  wished to testify.  He then                                                               
closed public testimony.                                                                                                        
                                                                                                                                
Number 1931                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE  MASEK moved  to report  SB 147  out of  committee                                                               
with  individual  recommendations  and  the  accompanying  fiscal                                                               
notes; she asked for unanimous consent.                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA objected.                                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
A  roll  call vote  was  taken.   Representatives  Heinze,  Lynn,                                                               
Morgan, Wolf, Masek, Gatto, and  Fate voted in favor of reporting                                                               
SB 147 from  committee.  Representative Cissna  voted against it.                                                               
Representative Guttenberg  was absent  for the vote.   Therefore,                                                               
SB  147  was  reported  out   of  the  House  Resources  Standing                                                               
Committee by a vote of 7-1.                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                                

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