Text: S.Hrg. 116-54 — THEODORE ROOSEVELT GENIUS PRIZE: INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE HUMAN- PREDATOR CONFLICT
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[Senate Hearing 116-54]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
S. Hrg. 116-54
THEODORE ROOSEVELT GENIUS PRIZE:
INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE
ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
UNITED STATES SENATE
ONE HUNDRED SIXTEENTH CONGRESS
JULY 24, 2019
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COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND PUBLIC WORKS
ONE HUNDRED SIXTEENTH CONGRESS
JOHN BARRASSO, Wyoming, Chairman
JAMES M. INHOFE, Oklahoma THOMAS R. CARPER, Delaware,
SHELLEY MOORE CAPITO, West Virginia Ranking Member
KEVIN CRAMER, North Dakota BENJAMIN L. CARDIN, Maryland
MIKE BRAUN, Indiana BERNARD SANDERS, Vermont
MIKE ROUNDS, South Dakota SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, Rhode Island
DAN SULLIVAN, Alaska JEFF MERKLEY, Oregon
JOHN BOOZMAN, Arkansas KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND, New York
ROGER WICKER, Mississippi CORY A. BOOKER, New Jersey
RICHARD SHELBY, Alabama EDWARD J. MARKEY, Massachusetts
JONI ERNST, Iowa TAMMY DUCKWORTH, Illinois
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, Maryland
Richard M. Russell, Majority Staff Director
Mary Frances Repko, Minority Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
JULY 24, 2019
Barrasso, Hon. John, U.S. Senator from the State of Wyoming...... 1
Carper, Hon. Thomas R., U.S. Senator from the State of Delaware.. 48
Hovinga, Brad S., Jackson Regional Wildlife Supervisor, Wyoming
Game and Fish Department....................................... 3
Prepared statement........................................... 5
Responses to additional questions from:
Senator Carper........................................... 16
Senator Whitehouse....................................... 17
Galante, Forrest, Wildlife Biologist and Host, Animal Planet..... 20
Prepared statement........................................... 22
Responses to additional questions from Senator Carper........ 26
Whitney, Nick, Senior Scientist and Chair, Fisheries Science and
Emerging Technologies Program, Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean
Life, New England Aquarium..................................... 27
Prepared statement........................................... 29
Responses to additional questions from:
Senator Carper........................................... 41
Senator Whitehouse....................................... 42
THEODORE ROOSEVELT GENIUS PRIZE: INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO REDUCE HUMAN-
WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, 2019
Committee on Environment and Public Works,
The Committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:03 a.m. in
room 406, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. John Barrasso
(Chairman of the Committee) presiding.
Present: Senators Barrasso, Carper, Braun, Rounds, Ernst,
Cardin, and Markey.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN BARRASSO,
U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF WYOMING
Senator Barrasso. Good morning. I call this hearing to
Earlier this year, Republicans and Democrats on this
Committee joined together to enact a bill called the WILD Act;
it is the Wildlife Innovation and Longevity Driver Act. These
really smart people behind us come up with these acronyms, and
it usually works; the WILD Act. The law supports innovative
efforts to conserve wildlife, to manage invasive species, and
to protect some of the world's rarest and most beloved animals.
The WILD Act established the Theodore Roosevelt Genius
Prize to encourage technological innovation. These prizes
annually award $100,000 to innovators who help solve our
Nation's most difficult wildlife and invasive species
challenges. The prizes were inspired by cutting edge
conservation innovations that are already in use, such as the
DNA analysis to identify the origin of illicit ivory supplies,
thermal imaging to notify authorities of poachers, and a fish
passage that automatically extracts invasive fish from systems.
So today, we will consider S. 2194, the Promoting
Resourceful and Effective Deterrents Against Threats or Risks
Involving Species. And you say, how do you come up with a name
like that? Well, it is also called the PREDATORS Act; you take
the first letter of each of those words.
The PREDATORS Act is a bill to establish a sixth Theodore
Roosevelt Genius Prize, which I have introduced along with
Senators Carper and Cramer and Booker. The bill would
incentivize the development of non-lethal, innovative
technologies that reduce conflict between human and wildlife
predators. Although rare, human encounters with predators can
lead to injury, and as we know, even death.
In Wyoming, the species most closely associated with this
problem is the grizzly bear. Just last year, a hunting guide
from Jackson Hole was tragically killed by grizzlies. The two
grizzlies responsible for the attack were euthanized. And it is
not just hunters that are at risk. In northwest Wyoming--
Wapiti, Wyoming--the elementary school near Cody had to build
an 8 foot high heavy gauge metal fence around its school yard
to protect its students. You can see the image here; ``Please
close the gate for the safety of people and animals at Wapiti
Wyoming is not alone. It is not alone when it comes to
grappling with human-predator conflicts. Fatalities occur each
year from sharks. In 2018, there were 66 shark attacks,
including 32 in the United States. A little over a week ago, a
young girl boogie boarding in Florida suffered shark bites to
her foot and ankle. Comparatively, she was lucky. In North
Carolina, a girl lost a leg and two fingers while swimming this
summer. An American woman was killed by shark in the Bahamas
around the same time.
Bears and sharks are not the only predator species of
concern. In Colorado, a runner's encounter with a mountain lion
on a trail left him injured and the animal dead. Tragically, in
Florida, a young child was killed at Disney World by an
Our distinguished panel is going to help us to examine how
the establishment of a new Theodore Roosevelt Genius Prize can
incentivize technological innovation to reduce future human-
predator contact. Our witnesses include Brad Hovinga, who is
the Jackson Regional Wildlife Supervisor at the Wyoming Game
and Fish Department. I am going to formally introduce him
Forrest Galante, a biologist, wildlife tracker, and Host on
Animal Planet, of Extinct or Alive, and we are thrilled to have
you here joining us.
And Dr. Nick Whitney, who is a Senior Scientist for the
Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life at the New England
Aquarium, which is in Boston.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses about their
experiences with human-predator conflicts and how innovative
technologies can help reduce them.
At this point, I would normally turn to Senator Carper. He
has several different committee meetings today. He is going to
be here shortly. And as I mentioned to Brad, we have a series
of three votes starting at 11 o'clock. So we are going to have
a lot of Senators attending. Some are going to be coming and
going. You are going to have a lot of attention to this,
because it is a topic of significant interest. As you see
members coming and going, realize that they are going to
different votes and different things. We are going to continue
to keep the hearing going.
Before we hear from all of our three witnesses, I do want
to welcome Brad Hovinga here, who has served as the Jackson
Regional Wildlife Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish
Department during the last 4 years. He has worked with Wyoming
Game and Fish since his graduation from Utah State University,
where he was awarded a bachelor's degree in wildlife
management. He has served over two decades as a district game
warden in Big Piney, Wyoming, and in Lander, Wyoming, and in
2014, was named Officer of the Year for Wyoming from the Shikar
Safari Club International.
In recent years, I have had the privilege of talking to him
on different occasions about conservation issues affecting
Wyoming. I think we have done it at the Elk Antler, the Boy
Scout event that they have every year in Jackson Hole.
This Committee is certainly going to benefit from hearing
about your vast experience in resolving predator-human
conflicts in Wyoming.
Mr. Hovinga, we appreciate your being here. It is a
privilege to welcome you as a witness before the Environment
and Public Works Committee. Thank you for traveling to
Washington, and we would like to now hear from you.
STATEMENT OF BRAD S. HOVINGA, JACKSON REGIONAL WILDLIFE
SUPERVISOR, WYOMING GAME AND FISH DEPARTMENT
Mr. Hovinga. Thank you, and good morning, Chairman
Barrasso, members of the committee.
My name is Brad Hovinga; I am the Jackson Regional Wildlife
Supervisor for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. I
appreciate the opportunity to be here today to provide my
perspectives on technologies and practices of reducing human-
wildlife conflicts. My testimony is based on 27+ years'
experience as a game warden and a regional supervisor
investigating these types of conflicts in Wyoming.
Today, I intend to highlight some of the important
innovations and technologies currently employed by western
wildlife management agencies to reduce human-wildlife
conflicts, as well as present some ideas that have potential
application for the future. Wyoming is home to a tremendous
wildlife resource that is valued by a constituency that is
passionate about their wildlife.
Human-wildlife interactions in Wyoming are typically the
result of animals seeking unnatural foods in association with
property or people, close encounters with humans, damage to
property, or large carnivores that depredate livestock. The
Wyoming Game and Fish Department makes a significant investment
in wildlife-human attack response training and has its own
response team to investigate and expertly deal with situations
involving human injury or death caused by wildlife. Wyoming
also puts forth a considerable educational effort, through our
Bear Wise program, that seeks to minimize human-bear conflicts.
Wildlife agencies use a variety of innovative, non-lethal
technologies to aid in reducing conflicts. These technologies
include the use of chalk and pepper balls, weapon fired
beanbags, a variety of pyrotechnics, and unmanned aerial
vehicles, or UAVs. Wyoming recently trained personnel in the
use of conducted electrical weapons, commonly known as tasers,
for use as an aversion tool for wildlife. Colorado and Alaska
have seen positive results with these devices with wildlife
conflicts in those situations.
Many of the non-lethal technologies used today to reduce
and prevent human-wildlife conflict have limitations that could
be potentially be improved to increase their effectiveness. The
technologies that I will discuss now either currently are in
use and have the potential of being improved, or new
technologies that I envision having a fundamental impact on the
future of reducing human-wildlife conflicts.
Bear spray is frequently a primary tool used in close
quarters human-bear conflict situations and often does an
excellent job in deterring animals in close contact situations,
when used correctly. However, in extreme weather conditions,
range and effectiveness of the spray can become limited and
have an adverse effect on the individual deploying the bear
Conducted electrical devices are quickly becoming a
valuable tool for wildlife managers as an aversive conditioning
technique, as well as a temporary immobilization tool on
animals like urban deer. However, in order for effective use on
large animals, such as grizzly bears and moose, the current
technology is lacking options for long range deployment that
would increase opportunities to use the technology and improve
Improvements in unmanned aerial vehicles, or drone
technology, that allow for the deployment of aversive
conditioning tools would greatly improve our ability to keep
people safe and influence the behavior of habituated or
aggressive wildlife. Developments in FLIR and thermal camera
technology for the use with UAVs would significantly increase
human safety when assessing dangerous situations.
Last, long range acoustic sound devices, or sound cannons,
are devices that directionally deliver sound over long
distances. The potential for development of long range acoustic
deterrents for wildlife management exists. Work to develop an
appropriate aversive conditioning tool for addressing wildlife
conflicts would be greatly beneficial.
The citizens of the United States have a deep and sincere
appreciation for wildlife resources, and expect wildlife
managers to understand and improve upon past and current
technologies to reduce human-wildlife conflicts. Investigating
ways to minimize the pitfalls and reduce the inadequacies of
current technology and techniques is a great place for us to
focus our work.
The wildlife populations continue to expand into human
dominated landscapes in Wyoming and throughout the West. Human
development continues to encroach on wildlife habitat.
Development of new, innovative solutions that carry greater
effectiveness at reducing conflicts between humans and wildlife
is paramount to the co-existence of people and wildlife.
I thank you for the opportunity to share my perspectives
and those of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on reducing
human-wildlife conflicts. I look forward to answering your
[The prepared statement of Mr. Hovinga follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Barrasso. Thank you so very much for your
Now I would like to turn to Mr. Forrest Galante, who is the
host on Animal Planet of Extinct or Alive.
Welcome to the Committee.
STATEMENT OF FORREST GALANTE,
WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST AND HOST, ANIMAL PLANET
Mr. Galante. Thank you very much, Chairman Barrasso,
Ranking Member Carper, and members of the Committee. Thank you
for the opportunity to be here today.
I am a wildlife biologist and animal tracker. For as long
as I remember, I have looked for wildlife to experience seeing
them in their natural habitat. I grew up on a farm in Zimbabwe.
The land was home to flowers, fruits, livestock, and wild
As a boy, I enjoyed catching snakes, fishing in the dam,
and exploring the remote African bush with my mother, one of
Africa's first female safari guides and bush pilots. I was
enthralled by all wildlife. I learned their behavior, how they
survive and thrive, and what threatens them in their existence.
From a young age, I knew I would pursue a career in wildlife.
I am honored to be here today to offer my perspective on
human-predator conflict, and how traditional and innovative
techniques can be used to reduce conflicts and benefit humans,
wildlife, communities, and habitats. I applaud the Committee's
leadership role in establishing the five Theodore Roosevelt
Genius Prizes. Now signed into law, this legislation encourages
innovation to address growing challenges in protecting
I also applaud the Committee for introducing new
legislation, the PREDATORS Act, to add a new award to
incentivize solutions to reduce human-predator conflict.
Growing up in Africa, the conflict between predator and human
is a daily struggle that I witnessed first hand, from leopards
stealing livestock to people actually being preyed upon by
species like crocodiles, lions, and more.
Unfortunately, in the long term, the predator almost always
loses, as eradication has typically been the method of
resolution. However, innovative methods of predator deterrents
have begun to arise. These deterrents could easily become the
new standard. They will not only resolve the issue, but support
local economies by keeping the valuable apex predators in the
system, which not only helps the biome, but supports
Many of these methods are still in development and have
typically been crudely implemented by scientists like myself
attempting to resolve a problem with little resources. I want
to emphasize that an understanding of animal behavior and the
ecology of a species is essential to developing successful
The following is a list of non-lethal deterrents.
Animatronic deterrents. In Malawi, there was an infamous hyena
that used to raid village flocks. An engineer friend of mine
came up with a fascinating animatronic decoy. Because hyenas
fear large animals and men, he built a large motion activated
animatronic scarecrow to place at the entry points of the
village. With solar panels to power them, they will scare away
hyenas that come near. This is a permanent fix that requires a
bit of engineering to be sustainably successful.
Alarm systems. There are really two types, foreign and
organic. A foreign alarm is a sound or light not recognized and
startling to an animal; an organic one is using something the
animal is naturally deterred by, such as a competitor's growl.
Setting these up by motion activation has proven successful for
foxes, coyotes, leopards, and more.
Olfactory deterrents. Like organic alarm systems, an
organic smell can oftentimes be enough to deter a predator. For
instance, if you have a persistent problem with a coyote,
spraying wolf urine around the perimeter can deter the coyotes
from entering the area.
Commensalistic deterrents. In many cases, using an animal
to deter another animal has no negative effects. This is simply
the sheep dog approach. Living in Africa, we would see that
trained packs of Rhodesian Ridgeback dogs were a fantastic
permanent solution to deterring lions. They stay close to home,
create an alarm system, and will easily run off a lion that is
trying to sneak in for a free meal.
Barrier methods. In many places around the world, fresh
water is the reason for predator-prey interactions. Using
barriers to create safe swimming and washing areas in river
systems can eliminate attacks by crocodiles, hippos, and other
The list goes on, but the key element here is fully
understanding the predator which we are trying to deter. The
point is true for predators in any habitat.
There are several new pieces of technology that, once
properly understood and implemented, will be the new standard.
Before wrapping up, I would like to share a few quick examples.
The HECS technology is a passive technology that blocks the
body's naturally occurring electric energy. Basically, by
wearing a wetsuit that has the technology of a Faraday cage--
the same thing that is in the door of your microwave oven at
home--it blocks the body's naturally occurring energy signal.
To a shark, you are now perceived as an inanimate object.
The shark shield is a lightweight, wearable electronic
device. The patented technology creates a powerful three-
dimensional electrical field which causes unbearable spasms in
the sharks' sensitive EMR receptors, turning sharks away as
soon as they come into contact with the electrical field.
The clever buoy is an ocean monitoring platform that
specializes in detecting large marine life using sonar and
identification software systems to relay critical information
to authorities responsible for beach safety.
Once technology like the clever buoy system is perfected,
implemented, and combined with something like the shark shield,
you have a virtual net that can make a beach safe for any
swimmers, which is just amazing, in my opinion.
Thank you again for inviting me to be a part of today's
hearing. I look forward to answering any questions that you may
[The prepared statement of Mr. Galante follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Barrasso. Thank you so very much.
And now, Dr. Whitney.
STATEMENT OF NICK WHITNEY, SENIOR SCIENTIST AND CHAIR,
FISHERIES SCIENCE AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES PROGRAM, ANDERSON
CABOT CENTER FOR OCEAN LIFE, NEW ENGLAND AQUARIUM
Mr. Whitney. Thank you, Chairman Barrasso, Ranking Member
Carper, and members of the Committee, for inviting me to
testify today on the topic of human-predator conflict as it
relates to sharks.
I am a senior scientist and shark researcher at the
Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life in the New England
Aquarium. The New England Aquarium is a catalyst for global
change through public engagement, innovative scientific
research, and leadership in education and ocean advocacy. Our
mission is to conduct research on topics related to ocean
health and conservation and develop science based solutions to
marine conservation problems.
I personally have studied sharks for over 20 years, and
have tagged over a dozen different shark species, including
white sharks, tiger sharks, and bull sharks, the three species
considered most dangerous to humans.
Although I am a scientist, I am also a husband and father
of three young kids, and my heart goes out to the victims and
families whenever someone is bitten by a shark. While cold
facts and statistics are useless to people who have suffered
through these incidents, we owe it to the public to develop our
response using the best available science.
The truth about shark bites is that they are incredibly
rare. Despite the millions of people that go into the ocean
around the world each year, only 66 unprovoked shark bites were
recorded globally in 2018, and only 5 of those bites were
Despite some truly terrible incidents, most shark bites are
noteworthy for their lack of severity considering the damage
that we know sharks can inflict. In fact, most incidents appear
to be cases of mistaken identity or investigatory bites in
which a shark uses its teeth to inspect an object and then
quickly releases once it realizes that it is not food.
Unfortunately, even a tentative bite can cause serious injuries
or death, depending on the size and species of the shark
When it comes to conflicts between humans and predators,
humans have long had the upper hand. By any measure, we are the
deadliest species to have ever existed. Today, we are killing
about 100 million sharks a year in global fisheries, with
further immeasurable impacts from habitat destruction,
pollution, and climate change.
This is unfortunate, because healthy shark populations are
extremely valuable to humans. Economically, shark fisheries are
valued at over a billion dollars annually, and shark ecotourism
may be worth over $300 million globally.
Ecologically, sharks represent a crucial part of the marine
ecosystem, the health of which will determine if our planet
remains habitable for the 9 billion or more humans expected by
2050, many of whom are highly dependent on the oceans as their
primary source of protein, and at risk from the threats of
Despite everything we know, people's fear of sharks is
amplified and often exploited by news media well aware that
scary stories will attract an audience. Innocuous sightings of
sharks swimming in the ocean are often accompanied by headlines
suggesting vicious attacks, and reports of small, non-
threatening shark species are presented along with pictures of
white sharks attacking seals.
In the United States, the most recent area of media focus
has been on the growing number of white shark sightings around
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, where there have been five shark bites
on humans since 2012, including a tragic fatality in 2018 that
was the State's first shark related death in over 80 years.
The increase of white shark presence along the Cape is
thought to be driven largely by the growing population of grey
seals, which are a preferred prey item for white sharks. In
response to these increased sightings, the Massachusetts
Division of Marine Fisheries and the Atlantic White Shark
Conservancy have been conducting research to understand shark
movements and inform public safety strategies.
Starting this year, the New England Aquarium is joining the
team to apply the latest in high tech tagging technology to
understand these sharks' fine scale behaviors, as well as the
nature and frequency of white shark feeding events on seals. I
brought a few of those tags here.
In the meantime, towns across the Cape have been working
with the Conservancy and the Massachusetts Division of Marine
Fisheries to raise awareness about sharks through community
engagement and outreach. Research information is shared in a
two-way conversation with the public through the Conservancy's
Sharktivity smart phone app, as well as on the group's Web
site. This implementation of cutting edge scientific research,
in conjunction with public outreach and education programs, is
likely the most effective way to ameliorate the impact of
Although it is tempting to reach for quick solutions to
prevent shark bites, any new technologies claiming to be a one
size fits all solution run the risk of giving people a false
sense of security and should therefore be subjected to rigorous
scientific testing before being broadly implemented. In
addition to what is being proposed today, sustained funding for
scientific research is the key to achieving the depth of
knowledge required to sustainably manage our ocean resources
and to produce effective new tools and strategies to avoid
conflicts between humans and sharks.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Whitney follows:]
[GRAPHICS NOT AVAILABLE IN TIFF FORMAT]
Senator Barrasso. Thanks to all of you for your testimony.
I will just start with some questions I wanted to start
with. This past weekend, on Sunday, I was in Buffalo, Wyoming,
where it was Longmire Days. He is a sheriff in books by Craig
There is another equally famous officer from Wyoming,
another fictional character that C.J. Box writes about, Joe
Pickett, who was a game warden for many years.
You were a game warden for 20 years. Anybody that were to
sit there and Google Joe Pickett detective series, the guy
there in the picture looks like it could be you. The hair is a
little darker; well, a lot darker. But it could have been you
20 years ago.
Having read most of the books, it shows just how dangerous
the job is that game wardens do for them in their lives in
terms of not just interaction with wildlife, but humans. So we
appreciate what you do.
I wanted to get a bit into this topic and ask some
questions for you as well as for Forrest. Last year, the
Associated Press reported on grizzly bear attacks, and the one
fatal one we had in Wyoming, of an outfitter, and noted that
conflicts between grizzly bears and humans in the Yellowstone
region have become more common as this species has recovered
from near extermination in the early 20th century. Although
fatal attacks on humans are still rare, and I heard about it in
Cody on the 4th of July, talking to folks, they have the bear
spray canisters at the airport. There was a story in USA Today
about bear spray not being mandatory, but it is a good idea and
What factors are you seeing that generally account for the
upticks in human-predator conflicts?
I am going to ask you, Forrest, the same question.
Mr. Hovinga. Certainly, Mr. Chairman, over the years, since
in the last couple of decades, the grizzly bear population has
increased and expanded in Wyoming. From 1990 until as recently
as last year, looking at the numbers, grizzly bears have
expanded from an area approximately the size of 23,000
kilometers to an area of approximately 68,000 kilometers. So
the grizzly bear population continues to expand.
Bear densities in the greater Yellowstone area, in the
primary conservation area have expanded out in and now occupy
about 97 percent of the demographic monitoring area where
grizzly bears are managed. They have continued to expand, as
the population expands. They reach a density in those core
areas and expand outward.
As they expand outward, outside the DMA, the demographic
monitoring area, they tend to expand those populations, expand
into areas that are more human dominated landscapes. There is
more people, more activity, more roads, more camping. And just
generally, those bears are now coming into contact with more
people than they ever have.
Consequently, our conflicts that we deal with in Wyoming
between people and bears, about one-third of those conflicts
now occur outside the DMA. So grizzly bears have expanded into
those human dominated landscapes and are now making more
contacts with development and people in areas where those
conflicts typically haven't happened before.
Senator Barrasso. Mr. Galante.
Mr. Galante. I think Brad summed it up perfectly, the fact
that encroachment is the biggest issue. That is a two-way
bridge: human populations are increasing as are the bear
populations in Wyoming. Prevention is the best option.
Prevention is much better than being reactive. What I mean by
that is, if we can put some of these innovative techniques into
play ahead of having problems, having encroachment issues,
people going into bear habitat and bears going into people
habitat, then we will see much more passive interactions
between people and animals.
Something Brad and I discussed yesterday was using negative
reinforcement in order to do that. What I mean by that is,
whether you are using the alarm systems that I noted, or
shocking the bears, or whatever the situation is, to give the
bears a negative association with human beings as opposed to a
positive one when they are raiding trash cans and taking food.
Senator Barrasso. And to the issue of bear spray, which we
advocate in Wyoming, not mandatory but we suggest is a good
idea, your agency advocates the use of bear spray as an
effective deterrent to aggressive or charging bears. Can you
just talk a little bit about some inadequacies of the bear
spray, when it works, when it doesn't? How can we improve on
Mr. Hovinga. Certainly, Mr. Chairman. First off, will say
that we do love bear spray and promote bear spray as an agency.
Our employees carry bear spray in the field. We encourage
everybody recreating in areas that could be occupied by grizzly
bears to carry bear spray.
The one thing, when we teach bear spray education, is that
bear spray is a great tool, most of the time, to deter animals
during an attack or close contact situation. But one of the
pitfalls we do see with bear spray occasionally, and it's good
for people to be aware of, is that in adverse weather
conditions, like strong crosswinds or headwinds, bear spray can
have its effects limited.
If you have a strong crosswind, it may be more difficult
for that bear spray to actually reach the intended target,
where normally you can get a good 30 feet worth of bear spray
in front of you. That distance may be reduced and the
effectiveness of how much spray reaches the animal could be
Also, consequently, if you have a headwind, you might
imagine, as a spray, with lots of particles blowing back onto
the user of the bear spray, the self-contamination issue is
certainly something to be aware of with bear spray.
So there have been new technological advances in the law
enforcement realm, where there has been new products that deal
with--like a pepper gel. So it is a heavier substance, that is
less affected by the wind, less affected by heavy rain, and it
decreases the potential for self-contamination with spray. That
would be a great advancement for us to have with bear spray.
Senator Barrasso. Thanks.
Senator Braun. Thank you.
Interesting conversation, because I practiced conservation
and managed a lot of land, at least I did before I got here,
still can do it as much as I can on the weekends. But I am
putting in perspective--Wyoming, I think has maybe close to
four times the land mass of Indiana. We have about six times
the population or so of Wyoming. Most of our wildlife is
concentrated into one-third of the 20 million to 21 million
acres we have in Indiana.
To look at, from the Lewis and Clark days, when we had
probably grizzlies, a whole panoply of wildlife there, and of
those 20 million acres, I think 19 million would have been
wooded. Ironically, we probably have more deer living on one-
third the terrain now when they were completely gone. I
remember the only place you could go deer hunting was on a
military base, because of subsistence farming and the land that
had been cleared from 19 million acres down to about a million.
So through conservation, good stewardship, we brought that
back to 6 million to 7 million acres. Beavers are everywhere.
Otters have been reintroduced. Both of which now have had
trapping seasons, because they have gotten out of hand. Beavers
are almost everywhere. It is a beautiful story.
Believe it or not, mountain lion sightings. Because we have
more deer than we had, and it was spread over three times the
land area. Now it is like a buffet, where you have crops to
boot. So I don't view this as pepper spray and being afraid of
it, but I personally think we will have nesting, we will have
mountain lions that are reproducing in southern Indiana.
Bobcats, for instance, I don't think we had any on trail
cams. Now they are pretty well universally around. In a place
like Indiana--where you at least have got expanse in Wyoming,
in the West--we are going to run into that conflict. Coyotes
have prospered; there are more in Indiana now than probably
before. I mentioned the other wildlife that has really done
Bobcats, we recently had a hearing associated whether we
should introduce a trapping and hunting season. Because most of
the people in Indiana that pay for DNR and buy a license, or
are wanting to hunt small game, so those kinds of conflicts.
I would like to ask you, because I think there have been
actually mountain lions passing through. I believe they are
possibly reproducing. In a place like Indiana, where you don't
have the expanse, where you are going to run into these
conflicts very quickly, do you see where an apex predator like
that could actually live side by side? I think it would be a
beautiful thing if it could happen. But I know even many of the
most fearless hunters would be a little bit careful if they
knew you had a full, active breeding population of mountain
lions in southern Indiana.
Any of you who want to weigh in on it, I would be
interested to hear what you think and how we would manage
Mr. Hovinga. Certainly, Mr. Chairman, Senator Braun. When
you have deer populations like you described, and mountain
lions move into the area, when there is a prey base to support
that animal, they are certainly likely going to do well. As far
as mountain lions go, in Wyoming, we have a lot of mountain
lions, we have a lot of deer, we have a lot of prey base for
those animals. And they tend to do well.
We don't have a lot of conflicts with those animals, with
mountain lions, outside of urban areas. Sometimes in urban
areas, when they come in, and they typically come into urban
areas looking for prey, which is the deer that reside in urban
developments. That is when those conflicts arise. Typically, it
takes on the picture of a mountain lion comes in in the middle
of the night looking for prey, it finds prey, it suddenly gets
light, and people come out from everywhere. And that is when
the conflict arises.
So certainly those are manageable situations. I do think--
to answer your question, I do think you can have, even in areas
with a larger population base and less land, coexistence of
mountain lions and deer in those communities.
Senator Braun. Are there active hunting seasons on mountain
lions and grizzlies in Wyoming and throughout the West?
Mr. Hovinga. Mountain lions, yes, Senator. Grizzlies, no.
Grizzlies are currently federally listed under the Endangered
Species Act. And we coordinate our management efforts with the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on anything we do grizzly
related. It has gone back and forth over the last few years. We
had control last year when the hunting guide was killed in
Wyoming; we had management authority over grizzly bears at that
time. We had a hunting season proposed. However, the judge's
decision put that bear back on the Endangered Species List
before we had the opportunity.
Senator Braun. I think we are going to have a round for
some other questions, and I will come back, and we'll finish
here. I have a few more. What is the harvest on mountain lions
in a State like Wyoming through hunting? Roughly.
Mr. Hovinga. As far as the number we harvest, I don't have
that exact number with me. But it is in the hundreds.
Senator Braun. In the hundreds, OK.
Mr. Hovinga. Yes. And in our particular area, in my region,
we will harvest in between 20 and 30 mountain lions in our
Senator Braun. And the population is sustainable over time
Mr. Hovinga. Absolutely. The way we manage mountain lions
is, we have areas that we leave as, some are source areas, that
are designed to continually grow in population and be a source
for other areas and manage others for stable populations. We
have a little higher harvest in those areas.
Senator Braun. Thank you.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you, Senator Braun.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. THOMAS R. CARPER,
U.S. SENATOR FROM THE STATE OF DELAWARE
Senator Carper. Thanks, Mr. Chairman. I have a statement I
want to read, but first, let me just say welcome. We also are
in different committees, and in one of my other committees,
Homeland Security Committee, we had what we call markup, where
we were debating a bunch of nominations and bills. I needed to
be two places at one time. Hard to do that. I apologize for
missing your statements, but we are glad you are here, and we
appreciate your responding to our questions.
Ironically, Mr. Chairman and colleagues, my wife--I think I
mentioned this--she is hiking the Appalachian Trail this week
with her sister and brother-in-law in western North Carolina. I
get a daily report on predators that are attacking them and
preying on them. I hope she will come back in one piece next
When I originally heard about this hearing, I said, well, I
don't know if I have a dog in that fight. As it turns out, I
have a wife and sister-in-law and brother-in-law. So this is
more germane to me than I first thought.
While we don't have a whole lot of top predators in the
First State--Delaware is the First State--we were the First
State to ratify the Constitution; that is why we are called the
First State. Like a lot of Americans, Delawareans are
fascinated by predators. In fact, a couple of years ago, one
enterprising Delawarean mounted--if you can believe this--a
110-pound fiberglass shark to his dune buggy in honor of a
white shark named Hilton that was tracked off Delaware's coast
in 2017. While that dune buggy has driven thousands of miles,
Hilton has swum thousands more, I think from South Carolina to
about as far north as Nova Scotia.
But as the immense popularity of Shark Week demonstrates,
millions of Americans are enthralled with these creatures, and
with good reason. Predators such as bears and sharks really do
play uniquely significant roles in their ecosystems and ours.
These animals control the entire food chains, indirectly
influencing everything from the spread of invasive species to
carbon sequestration. They sustain healthy populations of
commercially and recreationally important fish and game
species, and even help to enhance plant diversity.
Many predators are also important for ecotourism. However,
as humans continue to encroach upon wildlife habitat and
compete with predators for the same space and the same natural
resources, our relationships with these animals can become, in
some cases, adversarial.
What is more, human-predator interactions are increasingly
common, as more people recreate, like my family this week, in
wildlife habitat. More than 300 million people visit our
national parks each year, and our coasts are more popular than
ever for surfing, for swimming, for boating, and for fishing.
Human-predator interactions can impact predators and humans
alike. Humans have a history of culling entire predator
populations due to conflicts, which has negative effects on our
Predators can also threaten our recreational opportunities,
food, and economic security, and in rare but serious cases,
cause human injury or loss of life. My wife was describing how
they have these bear bags that the put food and stuff,
provisions in, and hoist them up so they are up in the trees so
bears can't get them. She had a very funny looking bear bag
compared to the other hikers; it was sort of like a made at
home kind of deal.
Just last fall, two grizzly bears sadly killed a hunting
guide in Wyoming. A short while later, a young man tragically
lost his life after an encounter with a great white shark off
of Cape Cod. Although such tragic outcomes are exceedingly
rare, they do happen. As a result, we should consider how
human-predator conflicts may evolve over time.
As the range of some prey species shifts in response to
climate change, some species cease to exist entirely. Predators
may be forced to move to new areas to follow the prey, or find
new sources of food. This begs a couple of questions. One of
them is, what can we do to meaningfully address human-predator
conflicts. A second question would be, how can we protect
predators and preserve the important role they play in the
environment, while minimizing harmful human-predator
I like to say that there are no silver bullets when we are
trying to solve a particular issue. There are no silver
bullets, a lot of silver BBs. Some of are bigger than others.
One approach is the legislation before us today, which will
support innovative, non-lethal technologies to study, to
monitor, and to manage predators.
Mr. Chairman, I appreciate your commitment to innovation
and technology. I am pleased to support you in this legislative
effort. With that said, I also want to highlight the importance
of engaging citizens productively in addressing these
conflicts. We need to make sure that good science and data can
be used by wildlife managers and decisionmakers when managing
predators. The public, who care most about these animals, must
have the opportunity, formally or informally, to collaborate
with scientists and managers on solutions.
Finally, Democrats on this Committee have proposed a number
of bills to address habitat loss, wildlife conservation, and
climate change, all of which affect predators, as we know. Many
of these bills are bipartisan and non-controversial. I hope
this Committee will work soon to advance some of those
legislative solutions as well.
Thanks again, Mr. Chairman, for holding the hearing today.
I look forward to working with you to advance this bill. I
again apologize for missing the first part of this hearing.
Senator Barrasso. Would you like to proceed, Senator
Carper, with a few questions, since Senator Braun and I have
both had a chance to ask some?
Senator Carper. Yes, I would appreciate that. Thank you.
I have 14 questions. Not really.
Senator Barrasso. They are up to it. They can handle it.
They are good.
Senator Carper. We will divide them up.
The first question, this will be for all three of you, if
you would. We already see the impacts of climate change on
wildlife, increasing air and water temperatures, and rising sea
levels, destroying or altering habitat as we know. Evolving
weather and rainfall patterns impact food and water
In response to these changes, wildlife behaviors are also
changing. For example, orcas are moving north into the Arctic,
and scientists have documented the northward migration of bull
shark nurseries. Given these impacts, how do you think climate
change affects the increasing frequency of human-predator
conflicts in the U.S.?
Mr. Whitney, I am going to ask you to lead off, and I will
ask each of you to respond. How do you think climate change
affects the increasing frequency of human-predator conflicts in
Mr. Whitney. Thank you for the question. Yes, as you noted,
climate change and rising ocean temperatures do have an impact
on several species, including sharks. Most sharks are
ectothermic, which means they are cold blooded. Their body
temperature is going to be at whatever level the seawater is
that they are swimming in.
Senator Carper. What was that term?
Mr. Whitney. Ectothermic.
Senator Carper. Thank you. I always say, what did you learn
today? One thing.
Mr. Whitney. You can say cold blooded, too.
Senator Carper. We use that term a lot around here.
Mr. Whitney. So as ocean temperatures rise, the sharks'
body temperatures will rise, and their metabolic rate will
increase, which means they are more active, they are burning
more calories, they need to consume more prey to replace those
What we typically see is sharks changing their distribution
to stay within their preferred temperature range. They tend to
have a range of a few degrees that they like to stay in. So as
the area of that preferred temperature range moves north or in
whatever direction, depending on what part of the world you are
in, the sharks are likely to move to follow that. The same
thing is true, most of their prey are going to cold blooded as
well, so their prey will move to follow those temperatures.
So in terms of what that means for shark-human conflict, it
potentially means that you have sharks coming into areas more
commonly where they haven't been in recent history. So people
may be used to swimming off beaches and not seeing many sharks,
and now, with the warmer water temperatures, you can have more
humans in the water, because the water is warmer, for one
thing, and they will stay in longer, but then also more shark
species coming into those areas.
Senator Carper. Great. That was good. Thank you.
Mr. Galante. Thank you, Senator Carper. As you see species'
ranges shift and increase, I think the biggest key is
understanding the ecology, as Dr. Whitney pointed out. Then
being adaptive for that. So understanding what species are
going to shift into what new ecological niches, where they are
going to occur, where they haven't previously, and what
preventive methods we can take ahead of there being conflict to
ensure that there is no issue with predators coming into that
As you pointed out, there is absolutely no doubt that
predators are constantly moving, and they are going to occupy
new ecological roles in new environments. If we are ahead of
that game, understanding and predicting that, then we can
mitigate conflict altogether.
Senator Carper. All right. Very good, thank you.
Mr. Galante. Thank you.
Senator Carper. And Mr. Hovinga.
Mr. Hovinga. Thank you, Ranking Member Carper.
Climate change with large carnivores in Wyoming is real
similar to what these gentlemen have talked about here with
other predators. Certainly, climate change affects not only the
vegetation and what happens with the vegetative components of
the landscape, but it also affects what happens with prey base
on the landscape. So when there are changes in vegetation or
changes in prey base, that obviously changes how those large
carnivores or predators react to that.
For example, grizzly bears, or bears in general being
omnivores, can eat a variety of foods on the landscape.
However, the foods that they typically may eat that are at a
high elevation, if climate change were to cause an issue with
those particular foods to be developed, those bears would
typically change location and change food sources that may put
them in a position to be in more close contact with humans.
So certainly something for us to be aware of, and to track
what the effects of climate change are. That will need to be
considered in management of all wildlife species in Wyoming.
Senator Carper. All right, thank you.
If I could, Mr. Chairman, maybe one more quick point.
This would be for you, Mr. Hovinga.
I take it back; this would be for Dr. Whitney.
Technology is often seen as a cure-all for complex
conservation challenges. However, as I mentioned earlier,
technology is just one tool in the toolbox. Thinking
specifically about addressing human-predator conflicts, are
there additional non-technology options we need to add to that
Mr. Whitney. Yes. Thank you, Senator Carper, for the
question. I think there are definitely tools besides
technologies that need to be incorporated here. A big one is
public education, and outreach just informing the general
public about the presence of predators, what they may be doing
in the area. I think Mr. Hovinga mentioned that in his
testimony on grizzlies.
Just hearing some of the stuff about grizzlies, you look at
the contradiction. If someone saw a grizzly bear feeding in
Yellowstone, you would stay away from that area. With sharks,
we take the places where they are feeding, and we swim through
them in board shorts and bikinis. So it is really a matter of
learning to recognize the areas where sharks may be feeding,
adjusting your behavior appropriately, and then taking the
things that we are learning about their behavior and their
movements and communicating those to the public, so they can
make informed decisions about their use of the ocean.
Senator Carper. Great, thanks.
Thank you all very, very much.
Senator Barrasso. Senator Markey.
Senator Markey. Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much.
This issue is very relevant to Massachusetts; Dr. Whitney
knows this for sure. Because we have seen the return of the
great white sharks to Cape Cod. That might be an encouraging
sign of a recovering ecosystem. But it brings new challenges
for the coexistence of a healthy marine environment, and our
residents, our tourists, and our bustling $7.4 billion blue
economy in Massachusetts.
In September of last year--I know Senator Carper referred
to this--Arthur Medici was killed by a white shark in
Wellfleet, the first shark fatality in Massachusetts since
1936. I would like to take a moment to extend my deepest
condolences to Mr. Medici's family.
In the wake of that incident, and an additional shark
attack in Truro, Cape Cod national seashore officials and Cape
Cod towns are making every effort to ensure that Cape residents
and the 4 million visitors that flock to the national seashore
each year can safely enjoy our nationally acclaimed beaches. In
order to safely co-exist with sharks, we must increase our
scientific understanding of their movements and behavior near
Dr. Whitney, thank you for joining us today. Does white
shark behavioral and tracking research require sustained,
secure research funding over several years?
Mr. Whitney. Thank you for the question, Senator Markey.
Yes, understanding the behavior and movements of any species,
especially a large shark, is going to require sustained
research. That is a project that has been ongoing now for about
10 years with the Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries,
as well as with the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy. It has
been a combination of some public funding and also private
fundraising that has kept that research going.
Most of our work is funded by Federal grants that normally
have a 1-year timeline, or maybe 2 at the most. As you can
imagine, it can be very difficult to get answers about the long
term movements of species that may live for over 70 years, and
their movements cover entire ocean basins. So to just go out
and study those over a 12-month grant period will not give you
a lot of information.
Senator Markey. You testified that in addition to
scientific research, public outreach is the most effective way
to reduce shark-human conflict. Your shark tagging data is
publicly available, and the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy's
Sharktivity app combines awareness efforts with citizen
Dr. Whitney, in addition to informal interactions by way of
apps and Web sites, is more formal and structured communication
needed to train Cape communities on shark safety and incident
Mr. Whitney. I would say absolutely. Any form of educating
the community is a positive thing, and more formalized
education would be helpful, not just in helping people
understand the biology of the animals themselves, but also the
best ways to handle--in the event of an attack or a bite on a
human, how to actually take the appropriate action to save
Most of these bites on humans are not predatory bites.
White sharks are capable of eating seals, which are far more
formidable in the water than humans. So the fact that most
humans that are bitten by white sharks are released rather
quickly and actually make it to the beach is a sign that the
sharks are not intentionally trying to feed on humans. But of
course, even a tentative bite from a white shark can be deadly.
So the most important thing is to make sure that people who
are bitten get the medical attention they need as fast as
possible to prevent those fatalities.
Senator Markey. Thank you. I couldn't agree more. Cape Cod
National Seashore is currently coordinating efforts to educate
and inform visitors and residents of shark safety and train
Historically, Cape Cod Seashore Advisory Commission has
provided a structured, defined format for communication and
education and citizen input from outer Cape communities that
are most at risk of white shark encounters. Unfortunately, the
advisory commission's authorization expired on September 26th,
2018, only a few weeks after the fatal shark incident in
That is why I have introduced legislation to reauthorize
this citizen commission through 2029, restoring this critical
forum for citizen input, and outreach sorely needed to keep our
Cape communities safe. I hope that with the support of my
colleagues here in the Environment and Public Works Committee
and the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, that we can
find a way to reauthorize that legislation.
Do you think that would be an important thing to do,
Mr. Whitney. I am absolutely in favor of more formal
education for Cape communities, absolutely.
Senator Markey. Much appreciated.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you very much.
Before heading back to Senator Braun, I do have some
Just wanted to give you an opportunity, Mr. Galante, to
talk about a show you are going to be hosting during Shark Week
on Extinct or Alive on the Animal Planet about your recent
travels. Perhaps you could share a little bit about that.
Mr. Galante. Yes, certainly. What I do as far as a career
is, I travel around the world, primarily working with
predators. I do that on television as an education platform,
like Mr. Markey spoke about. This year, during Shark Week, we
go looking for what is arguably the rarest shark on earth, the
Pondicherry shark, a species not seen since the 1970s.
We travel literally to the ends of the earth in search of
it, through the Maldives and into very remote Sri Lanka, where
we are faced with numerous predators, leopards and tiger
sharks, things both terrestrial and aquatic. Not only is it a
great adventure, but we have a fantastic scientific discovery
that comes out with the episode. It is both worlds.
Senator Barrasso. It is an hour show?
Mr. Galante. It is.
Senator Barrasso. It is an hour, so people can tune in if
they want to see exactly what you find.
Mr. Galante. That is correct. It will be on this Wednesday,
yes, this Wednesday at 8 p.m. on Shark Week.
Senator Barrasso. Thanks.
Senator Braun. Quick question, and Brad, I think I have to
aim this at you again. Bobcats would be the current issue in
Indiana, because there has been such great restoration. Our
Department of Natural Resources has done an excellent job. Of
course, that impacts turkey populations; they are predators of
fawns. So it is starting to disrupt--again, it is not a human-
predator interaction as much as most of the people that pay for
hunting licenses in Indiana are maybe not interested in feeding
the bobcats, so to speak.
So in, again, an area that is as compressed as ours is, do
you think we will need a bobcat season, either trapping and/or
hunting, eventually, to maintain their populations at a healthy
level that doesn't beat back the prey to where it would impact
hunters who are more interested in turkey hunting and rabbit
hunting and squirrel hunting? Even though they don't mind
bobcats around, other than if the prey is gone because there
are too many.
What do you think we need to do there eventually?
Mr. Hovinga. Thank you, Senator Braun. In Wyoming and in
the West, bobcat management revolves heavily around those
cyclic sorts of components of the prey base for bobcats.
Bobcats typically, in Wyoming and the western States, rely on
small mammals as prey. Bobcat populations tend to fluctuate
with upticks and population declines in those small mammal
We don't see effects from specifically bobcats on animals
like mule deer. We may see some in the eastern part of the
State with turkey, however, I am just not that familiar with
that. We could certainly find that information for you in
Wyoming. I am on the far western side of Wyoming, and we don't
have any turkeys where we are.
But I suspect they would, they would prey on turkeys, given
the opportunity. At some point, you may likely be able to
support recreational trapping or hunting of bobcats, based on
those populations, and establish and how your prey population
relates to the bobcat population. That will just be a time will
tell, as bobcats are able to establish, and if your agency can
document any effects on those prey base populations.
Senator Braun. Coyotes would be the parallel to bobcats.
Mountain lions, like I say, I think are just coming into the
area. Coyotes almost had, I think, unlimited hunting and
trapping and still are growing in number. So it is different in
a State that has less geography.
Mr. Hovinga. Correct, Senator Braun. In Wyoming, we do see
some of those impacts from coyote populations. We have made
some moves, through management, to address some of the harvest
of coyotes in an area that are popular for fawning and calving
areas for big game animals, in an effort to try to reduce some
of those impacts to the deer population. But coyotes do have an
impact on deer populations from time to time, specifically when
deer populations are low.
Senator Braun. Thank you.
Senator Barrasso. Senator Cardin.
Senator Cardin. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I really
appreciate our witnesses, what they do every day. I came in
close encounter yesterday with a deer in Baltimore City. Pretty
close to downtown Baltimore City. So we recognize we have
challenges today, make no mistake about it.
I want to start with habitat first, if I might. One of the
ways to deal with this issue is to do a better job in
protecting the habitat of wildlife. This Committee has a pretty
good record here. The last Congress, we reported out of our
Committee three bills that I sponsored with Republicans: The
National Fish and Wildlife legislation that was filed with
Senator Crapo, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
reauthorization that was with Senator Cassidy. That, by the
way, is where the Genius Prizes are handled. And the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service Compensation Act, so that damages that are
caused, they can recover the funds, recover for the damages,
put it into the trust funds and use it to protect and repair
the habitat that has been damaged. That is with Senator
I mention that because all three of those bills have been
reported out by this Committee, but were held up last year
because we couldn't find a vehicle to get it to the finish
line. So they pulled out of the LANDS Bill. I would urge the
leadership of this Committee to find ways that we can get those
bills moving. I do think habitat protection is an area that we
can all work on that can have a major impact on dealing with
the confrontation between wildlife and humans.
I want to deal with also the realities of climate, which is
affecting the realities that the growth of population, the
changing in weather patterns have all brought about more
conflict between humans and wildlife. I just think this needs
to be on our radar screen as we deal with mitigation issues on
It is interesting, when you look at the greatest threats,
it is insects. We have programs to deal with it. But if you are
looking at what is the greatest risk to life, it is insects.
And we need to deal with that. Climate change is affecting the
vulnerability in regard to insects and human health.
So I hope as we go through this that we look at a
comprehensive way to deal with this very important issue. I
agree with the Chairman; this is a very important issue, and we
need to act on it. But I would urge us to act on it in a way
that is mindful of habitat, mindful of the realities of
population growth, mindful of the changes in weather patterns,
and that we look at a way that takes all that into
consideration. And where the greatest risks are to human life
and human safety, and not necessarily the ones that make the
headlines in our paper, because of the very rare encounter
between a bear and a human, which happens too often, or a shark
and a human, which happens too often. But it is a rare episode,
as compared to some of the others. I don't know how many people
have lost their cars or their lives to deer. My guess is it is
So if anyone wants to comment on that, fine. I just wanted
to make those observations. I would be glad to hear from any
one of you in an extra 2 minutes of presentation before the
Mr. Galante. You are absolutely right, Senator, and I think
a big part of that is, as we have briefly addressed, just
encroachment issues, building highways through areas that have
high deer populations, and things of that nature. What you end
up seeing is these ecosystems are in a state of flux, meaning
that they are not stable with regard to their predator-prey
base. Once they are stabilized, you will have less encounters
such as deer on freeways and things like that.
Then of course, there are preventive methods, like what
they are doing in Florida, where they are building wildlife
corridors under the freeways and over the freeways, to prevent
such encounters. With regard to insects and climate change and
things of that nature, that is a very large topic that would
take a long time to figure out any kind of a permanent
solution. But the ultimate solution would be conservation. It
is understanding the ecosystems and understanding how to keep
them within balance, and once they are balanced, how that
affects all of the human populace that surrounds them.
Senator Cardin. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Senator Barrasso. Thank you, and I wanted to thank you
again for your leadership on this, Senator Cardin,
specifically. I know we had a hearing a week or two ago on our
upcoming highway bill. We had the head of the Wyoming
Department of Transportation--we talked specifically about
these interactions with deer and the damage and the loss of
life there. That is why I think as part of our markup next week
on the highway bill we actually have some things included in
the bill that have to do with that. So you will be happy to see
I want to just ask a couple of other questions. I know we
are in the middle of a vote right now, so people are coming and
Mr. Galante, to what extent can predator senses be impacted
or targeted by innovators, things like smell, sight, hearing,
touch, taste? You commented a little bit on how that would
work, things we can do to deter unwanted interactions with
Mr. Galante. Yes, hugely. Understanding the ecology of a
species and its behavior is the best way to come up with non-
lethal deterrents. What I mean by that is, as Dr. Whitney can
attest to, sharks have a specialized EMR receptive organ named
the Ampullae of Lorenzini. If you target that, by putting out
electrical currents, you can create fantastic shark deterrents.
The same thing can be said for terrestrial animals, whether
you are talking about a canine with a heightened sense of
smell, or you are talking about animals with a heightened sense
of hearing or sight. It is targeting these specific species
based on what instincts and what they use as predators, which
is most key to them, and targeting that specific sensory organ
and deterring them that way, which is a fantastic non-lethal
way to mitigate human-predator conflict.
Senator Barrasso. Senator Carper, I think you had a
unanimous consent request.
Senator Carper. I do. Mr. Chairman, I ask unanimous consent
to enter into the record written testimony and letters from
stakeholders as well as other supplemental materials.
Senator Barrasso. Without objection.
[The referenced information follows:]
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Senator Barrasso. Mr. Hovinga, since the goal of the Genius
Prize we are considering is to protect both predators and
humans, regarding predators, the key to protecting their lives
involves preventing conflicts with humans in the first place.
Can you explain why, from your years and history and knowledge,
after a conflict with humans occurs, it may be necessary to
euthanize some of these predators?
Mr. Hovinga. Certainly, Mr. Chairman. That is an
unfortunate reality sometimes with wildlife management and
wildlife behavior, that we have to realize. With a lot of
wildlife, bears specifically and other large carnivores, those
behaviors that end up becoming a part of an animal's everyday
behavior, that becomes dangerous toward humans, those are
learned behaviors. Those are typically learned through
successes over time. It usually revolves around those successes
in obtaining food.
They tend to learn that behavior over a long period of
time. It is perpetuated by success. Just to give you an example
of the situation I have dealt with before, this specific one is
a black bear, where a black bear learned that if you approach
people once in a while, they'll drop their backpack and run
away, and you can go over and receive a food reward out of that
Over time, that particular bear learned to be more
aggressive, and the more aggressive that bear was, the higher
the probability of that person dropping a backpack and running
away. Fortunately, we were able to intervene in that situation,
prior to that becoming dangerous and actually somebody becoming
So those learned behaviors are very, very difficult for
animals to unlearn. They typically don't unlearn them. It is
irresponsible for us as a wildlife management agency to allow
animals to remain on the landscape that engage in behavior that
is dangerous toward people. Unfortunately, sometimes those
animals need to be removed from the population.
So the populations are nearly always doing well enough that
those removals are not significant in the scheme of the
population management. But certainly, a requirement to keep
Senator Barrasso. And a final question, to all three of
you, are there technologies currently not available that you
envision coming down the line, having the potential to be
developed into usable technology to reduce these conflicts? We
will start with Dr. Whitney.
Mr. Whitney. Thank you for the question, Chairman Barrasso.
One of the focuses of my research is utilizing new technologies
to learn about shark fine scale behavior. So we use--the tags
in front of me here use accelerometers, the same technology
that is found in a Fitbit or in your smartphone. So we are not
just tracking where the sharks go anymore; we are actually
tracking their fine scale movements. We can count how many
tailbeats they make during a day or every change in pitch and
posture. So we can actually measure activities.
Then we are also starting to use the same technology along
with video cameras, so we can get an idea of the context of
what is happening, and what other sharks or prey items are
around while they are engaging in these behaviors.
So technologies like that are constantly developing and
expanding our ability to understand what is happening with the
predators. There is also tracking technology now where you can
actually follow a shark with an AUV, an underwater unmanned
vehicle. You can follow the shark around and occasionally take
video clips of what the shark is doing, or record water samples
so you know what is happening around the shark.
So things like that are the most exciting in our line of
Senator Barrasso. They do that with submarines, we find the
enemy submarines, you follow them around that way, too.
Mr. Whitney. Yes.
Senator Barrasso. Mr. Galante.
Mr. Galante. As Dr. Whitney stated, using Fitbits and shark
tags, and as Mr. Hovinga stated, using drones, in my opinion,
the best use of technology is actually repurposing existing
technology, and adapting it to be available for wildlife use,
whether that is taking technologies that exist in the tech
realm, in the hunting realm, in the fishing realm, in the
military realm, and applying that toward wildlife science.
Because what we see is with very small tweaks to existing
technology, we are able to apply that tech to our fields, our
respective fields of wildlife work. It is much cheaper, more
effective and certainly much quicker than trying to develop new
technology for these purposes.
Senator Barrasso. Mr. Hovinga.
Mr. Hovinga. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I certainly agree
with Mr. Galante, as far as those new technologies, and
repurposing. One technology that we have used in the past for
aversive conditioning on bears and other habituated wildlife is
air horns. But a technology that is out there that would be
really helpful is the use of some sort of an acoustic sound
technology or sound cannon. Those are directional devices that
can project sound a very long distance. You might imagine,
using an air horn or something, if you are outside, it doesn't
take very much distance for that sound to kind of fade.
But those technologies out there that have been used by law
enforcement for crowd control purposes for decades, the
military certainly has acoustic sound technologies that they
have to use. And some of that technology could certainly be
used or modified or made portable enough that it could be used
for an aversive conditioning technique for wildlife. Maybe
something portable enough that is directional, it could be even
a frequency that, instead of just being loud, is something that
has a very aversive sort of effect on a bear, and make that
technology even more effective.
What if that technology became portable enough that people
could carry that, similar to how they do bear spray? Those
technologies would be real advantageous.
Senator Barrasso. I want to thank all of you for being
here. This is fascinating. We had a lot of opportunity to ask
questions. We thank you for your testimony.
The hearing record is going to be open for 2 weeks, and
some of the members who haven't been able to be here and wanted
to, but had conflicts, may actually send written questions. We
hope that you quickly will respond to those.
So with that, thank you again for sharing your time and
your expertise. The hearing is adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 11:17 a.m., the Committee was adjourned.]