OLR Bill Analysis

HB 6394 (as amended by House "A", "B" and "C")*

AN ACT CONCERNING THE ENDANGERED SPECIES PROGRAMS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION

SUMMARY:

This bill:

1. sets conditions for administering drugs, pesticides, vaccines and immunocontraceptives to wild animals;

2. allows hunters to use bait to kill deer in areas the environmental protection (DEP) commissioner designates;

3. authorizes the commissioner to permit towns, homeowners associations, and nonprofit land-holding organizations to kill deer and take Canada geese under certain conditions;

4. expands the commissioner's power to control fish and wildlife to protect natural or agricultural ecosystems, and to acquire property for wildlife management purposes, requires that he document any such use of these and other specified powers, and subjects such uses to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA);

5. gives the commissioner authority to dispose of undesirable wildlife detrimental to livestock, endangered or threatened species, or causing severe property damage;

6. permits people to kill rock doves (pigeons), monk parakeets and certain other birds in certain situations;

7. requires the commissioner to issue free private land deer permits, for use on farms that are limited liability corporations, to the corporation's partners or their immediate family members;

8. increases the fine for disturbing, hunting, taking, killing, or attempting to kill a bald eagle and imposes that fine on people who disturb an active bald eagle nest;

9. expands the definition of dangerous animals increases the penalty for illegally possessing them, and authorizes DEP to bill a person who illegally possesses one for the costs of its confiscation, care, maintenance, and disposal;

10. expands the law concerning the commissioner's authority over the possession, importation, and transport of wildlife to include invertebrates and all mammals, including birds and fish;

11. bans the sale or purchase of snakehead fish; and

12. requires that hunters taking migratory game birds use types of nontoxic shot that meet at least the standards for nontoxic shot set by the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

It also makes technical changes.

*House Amendment "A" adds items 1 through 6, 11 and 12, and authorizes DEP to bill someone who illegally owns or possesses a potentially dangerous animal for the costs of its care, confiscation, and masintenance.

*House Amendment "B" requires the commissioner to issue free private deer permits for use on farms that are limited liability corporations.

*House Amendment "C" requires the commissioner to document the use of certain of his wildlife management powers and subjects such use to FOIA.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2003

ADMINISTRATION OF CHEMICAL OR BIOLOGICAL SUBSTANCES

The bill requires people to obtain a DEP permit before (1) administering chemical or biological substances, including drugs, pesticides, vaccines, and immunocontraceptives; physically altering or attaching any device to free ranging wildlife. An applicant must obtain all necessary federal permits and provide the commissioner with a written proposal (1) describing the protocol he will use; (2) the credentials of each person who will carry out the procedure; (3) the purpose or intent of the procedure; and (4) an assessment of any resulting physiological, behavioral, or environmental impact. The bill exempts from permit requirements DEP wildlife management programs performed according to professional wildlife management principles, which the bill does not define.

The law bars people from hunting or attempting to hunt wild game birds, wild quadrupeds (four-legged animals), reptiles, or amphibians, except as authorized by the commissioner. The bill expands these protections to include all wild birds, wild mammals, and invertebrates.

TAKING OF DEER

Under current law, hunters may not kill deer using traps, snares, salt licks, or bait. The bill permits them to use bait (an "attractant") to kill deer in areas the commissioner designates. Under the bill, an attractant is any natural or artificial substance placed, exposed, deposited, distributed, or scattered to attract, entice, or lure deer to a specific location. It includes salt, chemicals or minerals, including their residues, or any natural or artificial food, hay, grain, fruit, or nuts.

The bill authorizes the commissioner to permit a town, homeowner association, or nonprofit land-holding association he approves to "take" (kill) deer in a manner consistent with professional wildlife management principles if the town, association, or organization can show to his satisfaction that the deer present a severe nuisance or are causing ecological damage. The town, association, or organization must (1) submit for the commissioner's approval a plan describing the extent and degree of the nuisance or damage and the proposed methods of taking the deer and (2) notify abutting landowners of the approved plan before it implements it. The taking of the deer cannot involve the use of snares or occur on a Sunday. A violation of these provisions is punishable by a fine of between $ 200 and $ 500 and a prison term of between 30 days and six months for the first offense. Subsequent offenses are punishable by a fine of between $ 200 and $ 1,000 and a sentence of up to one year.

TAKING OF CANADA GEESE

The bill allows the commissioner to authorize a town, homeowner association, or nonprofit land-holding organization he approves to take resident Canada geese at any time or place using a method consistent with professional wildlife management principles. The bill requires the town, association, or organization to submit to the commissioner a plan describing the proposed method of taking the geese and the extent and degree of the nuisance or damage they are causing. The plan cannot involve a snare, must include a prohibition on feeding the geese, and require that landscaping be managed, using native plantings, to make it less hospitable to the birds. The town, association, or organization must notify abutting landowners before implementing the plan.

UNPROTECTED BIRDS

Current law allows people to shoot crows in the act of eating corn. The bill expands this to allow the shooting of crows, as well as brown-headed cowbirds, pigeons, and monk parakeets found (1) destroying ornamental trees, agricultural crops, livestock, or wildlife or (2) concentrated in such numbers as to be a public health or public safety hazard. It eliminates a provision allowing people to shoot red-winged crows and crow blackbirds in the act of eating corn.

EXPANSION OF COMMISSIONER'S POWERS

By law, the commissioner may take any fish, crustacean, bird, or animal for scientific, educational, or public health and safety purposes, or for propagation and dissemination. The bill expands that authority to allow him to also to take those creatures, consistent with professional wildlife management principles, to protect natural or agricultural ecosystems as long as he does not do so on a Sunday and does not use a snare. But, in the case of an imminent threat to public health or safety, the commissioner may take, at any time or place, any fish, crustacean, bird, or animal, using any method consistent with wildlife management principles regardless of any law to the contrary.

The bill (1) expands the commissioner's jurisdiction to include all wildlife, rather than just game animals, on state lands, and their introduction, propagation, securing, and distribution; (2) authorizes him to acquire lands for fisheries and wildlife management areas, in addition to the fish hatcheries and game preserves the law already allows him to acquire; and (3) authorizes him to import fish and wildlife, rather than just game birds, and game and fur-bearing animals, and to provide for their protection, propagation, and distribution; and (4) allows him to acquire fish and wildlife for experimental, propagation, or scientific purposes.

Regardless of any law to the contrary, the bill authorizes the commissioner to destroy or dispose of undesirable and diseased wildlife at any time or place, consistent with professional wildlife management principles, if he determines, among other things, that the wildlife (1) is detrimental to livestock; (2) is likely to be detrimental to endangered or threatened species, species of special concern, or these species' essential habitat; or (3) may cause severe property damage. It authorizes him to employ such special assistants as are necessary, rather than as many as he finds advisable.

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT PRACTICES

The bill authorizes the commissioner to:

1. manage the state's wildlife resources to provide sustainable, healthy populations of diverse wildlife species, including threatened and endangered species, consistent with professional wildlife management principles;

2. conduct research to better understand processes and relationships affecting wildlife and habitats;

3. conduct public awareness and technical assistance programs to enhance privately owned habitat and promote an appreciation for, and understanding of, the value and use of wildlife;

4. establish, restore, improve, control, and protect wildlife habitats;

5. create and maintain entrance and exit facilities for the public to use in any area under his control;

6. regulate hunting seasons and bag limits for all harvestable wildlife species in the state;

7. manage public hunting and wildlife recreational opportunities on state-owned, state-leased, permit-required areas and cooperative wildlife management areas; and

8. conduct, with volunteer assistance, conservation education and safety programs to promote safe and ethical hunting practices.

By law, he may spend from federal aid funds needed for supplies, material, equipment, temporary personal services and contractual services to carry out these provisions.

The bill requires the commissioner to document any use of these powers or the expenditure of federal funds. He must document (1) the reason for such use; (2) its duration; (3) a description of the power he used; and (4) the location where he used it.

The bill also requires him to list the names of the persons or entities that may take animals according to the plan, the plan conditions, and any methods used and species taken under the plan. However, this section of the bill does not refer to a plan. The bill explicitly subjects such uses and documents to FOIA disclosure.

PRIVATE LAND DEER PERMIT

By law, the commissioner must issue, without fee, a private land deer permit for use on a farm, provided that it is an S corporation and the permit is issued to a corporate member or a member of his immediate family. The bill requires the commissioner also to issue such a permit to a partner of a farm that is a limited liability corporation, or the partner's immediate family. For purposes of the bill, a limited liability corporation is a company treated as a limited liability corporation for federal income tax purposes.

DISTURBING A BALD EAGLE OR BALD EAGLE NEST

This bill increases, from $ 100 to $ 1,000, the fine for disturbing, hunting, taking, killing, or attempting to kill a bald eagle. As under current law, it is also punishable by up to 30 days in prison. The bill prohibits people from disturbing an active bald eagle nest, and from entering a posted no access area for either a bald eagle, or an active bald eagle nest. Violators are subject to a fine of up to $ 1,000 and up to 30 days in prison.

ILLEGAL POSSESSION OF DANGEROUS ANIMALS

By law, certain wild animals are potentially dangerous and it is illegal for people to own them (see BACKGROUND). The bill defines hybrids of such wild animals as potentially dangerous animals. The bill authorizes DEP to bill someone who illegally owns or possesses such an animal for all costs of confiscating, caring for, maintaining, and disposing of it. It increases the penalty for illegal possession of such animals from $ 100 to a maximum of $ 1,000 per offense and makes each violation and each day of illegal possession a separate offense. It authorizes the environmental protection commissioner to ask the attorney general to sue in Superior Court to recover the fine and the amount DEP billed.

IMPORT OR INTRODUCTION OF WILDLIFE

By law, no person can import or introduce into the state, possess, or liberate in the state any live fish, wild bird, wild quadruped, reptile, or amphibian without a DEP permit. The bill expands the law to include invertebrates and all mammals, thereby including such animals as bats and primates (monkeys, apes, and lemurs). The law authorizes the commissioner to (1) prescribe the number of these animals that may be imported, possessed, introduced, or liberated; (2) exempt certain species from permit requirements; (3) prohibit the importation, introduction, possession, or liberation of species he determines to be a potential threat to people, crops, or established species of plants and animals; (4) exempt certain institutions, such as zoos, from permit requirements; and (5) seize and dispose of illegally imported or illegally possessed animals. Each violation is an infraction.

Current law also prohibits the transport within the state or from the state of fish, birds, quadrupeds, reptiles, and amphibians for which a closed season exists without a DEP permit. The bill expands the law to include invertebrates and all mammals, thereby including such animals as bats and primates. Current law requires that any of these animals transported out of state be conspicuously tagged and labeled with the full name and address of the person authorized to transport such animal. Failure to attach such a tag is prima facie evidence of a violation of the law. The bill exempts from these permit requirements the transport of an animal (1) legally taken; (2) bred, propagated, or possessed by a person licensed or otherwise authorized to do so; or (3) exempt from licensing requirements. Violators are subject to fines of between $ 10 and $ 200 and up to 60 days in prison.

BACKGROUND

"Take"

By law, "taking" means shooting, pursuing, hunting, fishing, killing, capturing, trapping, snaring, hooking, or netting any species of wildlife.

Endangered, Threatened and Species of Special Concern

An "endangered species" is any native species documented to be in danger of extirpation throughout all or a significant portion of its range within the state and to have no more than five "occurrences" in the state. A "threatened species" is one likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future and to have no more than nine occurrences in the state. An "occurrence" is a population of a species breeding and existing within the same ecological community and capable, or potentially capable, of interbreeding with other species' members in that community.

A "species of special concern" is a native plant species or any native non-harvested wildlife species documented (1) to have a naturally restricted range or habitat in the state, (2) to be at a low population level, and (3) to be in such high demand by man that its unregulated taking would be detrimental to the conservation of its population, or (4) as having been extirpated from the state.

Potentially Dangerous Animals

By law, potentially dangerous animals include, but are not limited to, wild cats, such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars, ocelots, jaguarundis (central American wildcats), pumas, lynxes, and bobcats; wild dogs, such as wolves and coyotes; and black, brown, and grizzly bears.

Infractions

Infractions are punishable by fines, usually set by a Superior Court judge, plus additional fees and surcharges. An infraction is not a crime. Violators do not have criminal records and can pay the fine by mail without making a court appearance.

Legislative History

On April 22, the House referred the bill to the Judiciary Committee, which reported it favorably on May 2.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

25

Nay

0

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Report

Yea

35

Nay

0