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Enhancing Private Sector Wildlife Damage Management with a Comprehensive Curriculum

  • Author(s): Curtis, Paul D.
  • Shultz, Jill
  • Braband, Lynn
  • Berchielli, Louis
  • Batcheller, Gordon
  • et al.
Abstract

Wildlife agencies face the complex, often difficult, challenge of managing nuisance wildlife complaints. State agencies are under increasing pressure to provide better training for individuals in the private sector who provide such services. In July 2002, New York State (NYS) passed a law that mandated both training and documented proficiency for all nuisance wildlife control operators (NWCOs) who charge a fee for service. A team of NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) staff was organized to produce a curriculum and certification exams. The goals were to enhance the skills and professionalism of both current NWCOs and new license applicants, while maintaining a diverse array of operators that could provide the many levels of service required by various publics. Additionally, the training manual was designed to be a reference for DEC and CCE staff and others who are interested in nuisance wildlife control. The central philosophy of the manual was integrated wildlife damage management (IWDM), referred to as “best practices” in the manual. A best practice was defined as an effective method for solving a nuisance wildlife problem that minimizes risks to the environment and promotes human safety and well-being. Development of the curriculum (both hard copy and electronic versions) and the associated electronic test bank involved extensive and comprehensive research, reviews, and pilot testing. The curriculum and licensing examinations have been implemented in NYS, and the curriculum has won three different awards from state wildlife, extension, and stakeholder associations. Currently, a NWCO curriculum for the eastern United States is being developed, and it will provide a comprehensive, science-based, peer-reviewed training that satisfies stakeholder-identified needs. This regional curriculum fills an important gap that would otherwise likely be addressed by each state individually. The credibility of the training manual and certification exam will likely prove beneficial to NWCOs as the public becomes aware of this new process. The emphasis on best practices and the responsible treatment of wildlife will also resonate with the public.

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