Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/16/2003 03:34 PM 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 MS. JACQUELINE TUPOU, staff to Senator Lyda Green, sponsor of SB 147, gave the following testimony. This legislation before you provides authority to the Alaska Board of Game to adopt regulations that will allow the issuance of permits and licenses to sanctioned designees to control nuisance wild birds and nuisance wild small mammals. Currently, there is no statutory authority for nuisance wildlife control and the means by which ADF&G can sell a license or issue a permit... The first thing this bill does is it creates a new professional license that can be issued by the Department of Fish and Game, and that doesn't go into effect, if you'll notice, until July '04. It gives the department sufficient time to write the [regulations]. MS. TUPOU said the bill also gives the department the authority to work with persons and families who need assistance in getting rid of nuisance wild animals. The department can provide the names of people who are licensed to deal with these problems. CHAIR OGAN asked who this bill attempts to help and what kind of animals fall into this category. MS. TUPOU said she is not completely familiar with the history of this legislation but Senator Green has heard from constituents who have had wild animals in their yards that cause problems with their children and livestock. She pointed out the department has knowledge of the behavior of these animals and can advise a proper course of action. CHAIR OGAN noted that beavers can be very destructive. He asked if SB 147 gives ADF&G the discretion to decide whether to issue a permit for a specific animal. MS. TUPOU deferred to a representative from ADF&G for information on specific animals but said the department will have ample time to write regulations. CHAIR OGAN asked if this legislation will allow someone to set up a business to control nuisance animals. MS. TUPOU said that could well be a financial by-product of this legislation. The department will issue licenses to businesses to perform these services. SENATOR SEEKINS asked if this bill would create two classes of permittees - one for the homeowner for non-commercial control, the other for a professional who is compensated and that person would be regulated by ADF&G. MS. TUPOU said that is correct but it is up to the department as to whether it wants to issue permits. She said if she called ADF&G about a wild animal in her yard, ADF&G could confer with her about her plan of action and grant her authority to carry it out. Otherwise, ADF&G could choose to refer her to a list of licensed professionals. SENATOR SEEKINS commented that anyone making money must have a license. SENATOR WAGONER asked whether this legislation has been reviewed to ensure compliance with federal law. MS. TUPOU said that ADF&G will have to address compliance with federal laws. MR. GORDY WILLIAMS, legislative liaison to ADF&G, informed committee members that SB 147 is identical, with the exception of the effective date, to SB 205, which passed the Senate last year but did not make it through the House prior to adjournment. ADF&G worked with Senator Green last year; its concerns were addressed in that bill and are contained in SB 147. The effective date of July 1, 2004 in SB 147 will provide ample time to allow the Board of Game to adopt regulations. ADF&G also requested the language on page 2, paragraph B, [Sec. 4] that pertains to permitting be included. He stated the bill provides two routes to address problems: the licensing of commercial entities and permits to individuals issued by ADF&G. He stated support for SB 147. MR. DOUG LARSEN, Assistant Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, ADF&G, said when this legislation was discussed last year, ADF&G and the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities had differing opinions on how beaver would be addressed. He asked if that issue was resolved. MR. WILLIAMS said it was resolved. Currently, DOTPF deals with beaver problems on a case-by-case basis. It wanted blanket authority to get an annual permit for a specific area. ADF&G and DOTPF have addressed that concern. CHAIR OGAN asked what animals will come under the purview of this bill. MR. DOUG LARSEN, Assistant Director of the Division of Wildlife Conservation, ADF&G, said that hunting seasons are open for several species of small animals, however people cannot discharge a firearm within city limits. In addition, some people are unable to, or might not want to, deal with an animal themselves. CHAIR OGAN asked if the Board of Game could write regulations to encourage humane capture rather than killing. MR. LARSEN said he envisions the board setting up guidelines for these permits so that every effort would be made to rid the animal with non-lethal actions; lethal actions would be used as a last resort. SENATOR LINCOLN said when she lived in Fairbanks, her neighbor loved pigeons and encouraged their presence by feeding them. At first, a few pigeons perched on the neighbor's house but, within a short period of time, the number multiplied and many perched on her home. She asked how ADF&G would address that situation. MR. LARSEN said that is a good question. He felt any time a person attracts an animal, there will have to be [special] provisions. He said as an example, ADF&G does all it can to discourage people from doing certain things that attract bears, such as putting out birdseed. He said he believes ADF&G would want to approach the nuisance wildlife animal issue similarly. He pointed out that pigeons are classified as deleterious exotic wildlife so there is no limit and no season. SENATOR SEEKINS asked for a definition of "small mammal" and whether it includes coyotes. MR. LARSEN said ADF&G does not have a definition in its regulations. The Board of Game will have to figure out what species fall in that category. ADF&G would consider coyotes to be a small mammal but it is up to the board to decide whether to include them. MS. TUPOU noted that members' packets contain a list of small mammals suggested by constituents that should be included. SENATOR ELTON asked if there is a reason that invasive species, such as Northern Pike, were not included. MR. LARSEN replied, "...I believe that they are. When we talk about deleterious exotic wildlife, we're talking strictly on the wildlife side and not the fish side but there are exotic examples on the fish side, as well as plant communities that are classified so I think that those are covered but they're just not covered in the wildlife side." SENATOR ELTON asked if those species could be included under the business permit from ADF&G. MR. LARSEN said he hadn't thought about fish related resources and does not know how that would be handled. He said the bill is specific to nuisance wild birds and nuisance wild animals so he assumes fish and plant species would not be included for the purposes of this bill. MR. WILLIAMS added that ADF&G is developing an invasive species policy and that he would get back to members with more information. CHAIR OGAN took public testimony. MR. ROBERT DURAN, a resident of Wasilla, told members he has a vested interest in this legislation as he started a business last year named Nuisance Wildlife Management. He has been in constant contact with ADF&G, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Protection Agency, the Alaska State Troopers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local animal control shelters about this issue. He supports this legislation. MR. DURAN said with more and more development in the Southcentral area, there is more impact from wildlife. He is not always able to respond to the phone calls he gets about nuisance wildlife because a particular species might be outside of the regular hunting or trapping season. Alaska law contains a provision for defense of life and property, but the individual homeowner would have to deal with the animal him or herself. Oftentimes, that is not possible because the person may not have the equipment to do so or is physically incapable of doing so. He believes his business will be able to assist government agencies with nuisance wildlife complaints, as they do not have the time to deal with them. He has received a positive response from those agencies. He told members that nuisance wildlife businesses are operating in the Lower 48; they relieve a great deal of pressure from wildlife management agencies. He said, regarding endangered or other species that come under federal jurisdiction, his business would be accountable to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He pointed out that nuisance mammals can be taken live. SENATOR LINCOLN asked Mr. Duran to respond to the pigeon scenario she described earlier. MR. DURAN said he would set a live trap for those birds, remove them from the premises and try to relocate them. He said that pigeon droppings near ventilation systems can cause illness. He would not want to cause strife between neighbors so he would have to address both parties and then act in the best interest of all of the people involved. CHAIR OGAN said that geese are very messy and considered to be a nuisance by many people. He asked how one would relocate a goose and whether Mr. Duran anticipates having to deal with wild geese. MR. DURAN said he does and has already received one call from a local golf course owner. He said it is not feasible to relocate a bird that is capable of flying hundreds of miles at a time. However, effigies could be put up on properties to discourage them from stopping on that property. He said by effigies, he is referring to predator decoys or loud noisemakers. 5:00 p.m. CHAIR OGAN noted that this legislation already made it through the Senate last year and is not terribly controversial so he is willing to move it from committee. SENATOR WAGONER moved SB 147 from committee with individual recommendations and its attached fiscal notes. CHAIR OGAN announced that without objection, the motion carried. There being no further business to come before the committee, he adjourned the meeting at 5:02 p.m.