U.S. Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Carper (D-DE), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) introduced S. 2194 to address the problem of human-predator conflict.
S. 2194, The Promoting Resourceful and Effective Deterrents Against Threats Or Risks involving Species (PREDATORS) Act would establish a new Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize for reducing conflict through innovative, non-lethal technologies.
Senators Barrasso and Carper are the chairman and ranking member of the Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW). The EPW committee held a hearing on S. 2194 on Wednesday, July 24. Witnesses testifying at the hearing included Brad Hovinga, Jackson Regional Wildlife Supervisor Wyoming Game and Fish Department; Forrest Galante, Wildlife Biologist and Host Animal Planet; and Nick Whitney, Ph.D., Senior Scientist and Chair Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life, New England Aquarium.
A key focus of the hearing centered around human-bear conflict. Hovinga addressed the educational efforts as well as nonlethal mechanisms to avoid these conflicts, including pepper balls, weapon fired bean bags and pyro techniques. He said Wyoming has recently trained personnel in tasers as an aversion tool and that Colorado and Alaska have had positive results using these devices.
Chairman Barrasso asked about the increase in grizzly bear attacks, noting that conflicts in the Yellowstone area have become more common. Hovinga responded that the grizzly population has increased and their area has widely expanded into more human dominated areas resulting in more conflict. He noted that there is currently no grizzly hunting allowed because they remain on the endangered species list.
Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) commented that bobcats are the biggest predator issue in Indiana, impacting the turkey and deer populations. He asked if a bobcat hunting season might not be a solution. Hovinga noted that bobcat management practices focus on the cyclic components of the prey base, but recreational trapping or hunting could be supported.
SCI will continue to monitor and report on any further Congressional action as S. 2194 moves through the legislative process.