Legislature(2003 - 2004)
05/09/2003 08:10 AM RES
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= 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.