What is a Problem Animal Control Agent?
Problem Animal Control Agent Requirements
In order to become a licensed Problem Animal Control (PAC) agent, interested individuals must complete the following:
- Successfully complete a Massachusetts trapper education training course.
- Pass a written examination demonstrating knowledge of wildlife and habitat, handling and capturing techniques and animal welfare.
- Possess the necessary licenses for hunting, use of traps and firearms.
- PAC agents who want to handle individual problem coyotes must successfully complete a training program in coyote hunting techniques.
Massachusetts General Law, Chapter 131, Section 37, gives property owners the right to use lawful means to destroy wildlife in the act of causing damage or threatening personal safety. Landowners may only destroy wildlife actually causing damage or posing immediate threats. No one may randomly destroy wildlife simply because it is on their property. It is also illegal for anyone (including PAC agents) to live-trap a problem animal and move it for release on other public or private property.
If a property owner cannot resolve a wildlife problem on his or her own, the property owner may contract with a licensed Problem Animal Control Agent. PAC agents act on behalf of the landowner and are constrained by the same regulations regarding capture, release, transport and euthanasia (e.g. animals captured by PAC agents may not be relocated elsewhere). Fees may be charged for PAC services. When a property owner calls on a PAC agent, it is expected that the agent will also provide information and suggestions which prevent future wildlife problems.
PAC licenses are issued to individuals, not to groups or companies. Licensed PAC agents are the only individuals who may work with problem wildlife. PAC agents are NOT municipal Animal Control Officers, though some Animal Control Officers do have a PAC license. (Unless otherwise licensed as PAC agents, municipal Animal Control Agents may not legally handle wildlife unless the animals are sick or injured or present a threat to public health or safety.)
PAC agents may harass, take, and destroy, or may release or liberate on site as stipulated in 321 CMR 2.14 (23) non-domesticated reptiles, birds, and mammals the actions of which have or are endangering the life and health of humans or domestic animals; damaging the property of a person, obstructing the reasonable and comfortable use of property by the owner or tenant thereof or otherwise producing such material annoyance, inconvenience, and discomfort that can reasonably be presumed to result in damage or harm to persons or their property.
PAC agents may legally handle the following species: skunk, muskrat, raccoon, weasel, red fox, gray fox, porcupine, Norway rat, mice, voles, red, gray and flying squirrel, opossum, chipmunk, rabbit, woodchuck, snapping turtle, moles, pigeon, house sparrow, starling and certain species of bats.
Coyotes may be handled only by licensed PAC agents who have successfully completed a MassWildlife training and certification program specifically pertaining to coyotes. PAC agents must also follow certain reporting requirements after taking or attempting to take a coyote. This provision became effective in 2008. Contact the Westborough office at (508) 389-6300 for more details.
Individual landowners with damage caused by beaver flooding must contact their local Board of Health for the necessary permit. Licensed PAC agents or fur trappers may assist landowners with the permit process and will be identified on the permit as the landowner's duly authorized agent. More beaver information.
No other animals may be captured or handled by licensed PAC agents.
Damage caused by migratory birds and other birds such as woodpeckers, which are protected under both state and federal law, require a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services Office in Amherst (413) 253-2403.
Prospective PAC agents may start the application process at any time of the year. There are several criteria which need to be completed. MassWildlife reccomends accomplishing each task in the order below. Depending on course availability, this may not be possible, but it can be helpful during the application process. Individuals will not receive a PAC license until the criteria below are met.
- Successfully Complete a Trapper Education Course--In order to legally trap on someone else's property, both a valid Massachusetts trapping license and a trap registration number are required. PAC agents (and fur trappers) must successfully complete the free trapper education class offered by MassWildlife's Hunter Education Program. This one-day course is usually held on a weekend day.Students receive instruction on the Best Management Practices for trapping furbearers. The course covers basic techniques with a strong focus on the responsible treatment of animals, legal methods, safety, selectivity, and ethical trapper behavior. Trapper Education Courses are offered 3-4 times within the calendar year by the Massachusetts Hunter Education Program in different parts of the state. Prospective PAC agents should be prepared to travel to another part of the state due to course availability. To enroll in a Trapper Education Course, fill out a Course Notification form online or call the Hunter Education Program office in Westminster at (978) 772-0693.
- Pass the PAC Examination--The PAC exam is scheduled at the applicant's convenience, usually at the Field Headquarters. Exams may also be scheduled at one of the MassWildlife District offices. The PAC Handbook, an excellent reference and invaluable study material source for the PAC exam, is available by sending a check for $15 payable to MA Division of Fisheries and Wildlife to: PAC Study Materials, MassWildlife Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Road, Westborough MA 01581. Questions? Call the Westborough Field Headquarters at (508) 389-6300.
- Obtain a Trapping License and Trap Registration Number--Trapping licenses are valid during the calendar year and may be obtained at MassWildlife offices or other license vendor locations. Trapping license information and regulations. Trap Registration Numbers are obtained through the MassWildlife Boston Permit office. The Trap Registration Number fee is $5. You will need proof that you have successfully completed the Trapper Education Course in order to obtain a Trap Registration number.
- Complete PAC Application form -- Prospective applicants must complete this form, include a check for $100 and send it to the Westborough Field Headquarters. Do not fill out the form until you have completed all the criteria. The application form is also found in the study packet for the PAC exam.
Additional License and Certification Information to Consider
The following information is pertinent to PAC agents who plan to use firearms in their activities or to gain certification to handle problem coyotes.
A Hunting License is required for PAC agents planning to euthanize animals with a firearm. Anyone with a hunting license from a previous year, another state or Canadian province, or a certificate of completion from a hunter education course from any state or Canadian province may purchase a Massachusetts hunting license. If you lost your Massachusetts Hunter Education Card, records of course completions go back to the mid-1960's. Duplicate cards may be issued when you contact the Hunter Education Program.
First-time hunting license buyers must successfully complete a Basic Hunter Education Course. Courses are generally 14-16 hours and are held January through October throughout the state. To enroll in a Hunter Education Course, check the Hunter Education Course schedule and follow the enrollment instructions or call the Hunter Education Program office in Westminster at (978) 772-0693.
Gun Licenses--Anyone who wishes to use a gun as a PAC agent must have a gun license. If you do not already have a gun license, your municipal police department issues these licenses. The application process can take several months, especially if you have not taken any approved safety courses. Successful completion of an approved gun safety course may be required by the local police department in order to apply for a license. The MassWildlife Basic Hunter Education course is one of several legally approved gun safety courses for applying for gun licenses, but check with your local police department first.
Coyote Handling Certification -- Coyotes may be handled only by licensed PAC agents who have successfully completed a MassWildlife training and certification program specifically pertaining to coyotes. There are also specific reporting requirements when taking or attempting to take a coyote. This provision became effective in 2008. Contact the Westborough office at (508) 389-6300 for more details.
PAC Permit Renewal Form -- PAC permits are valid for the calendar year in which they were issued. PAC permit must be renewed annually by January 31.
PAC Annual Report Form -- A required annual summary of activities due by January 31 of the year following the summary. MassWildlife request that the annual report be included with a permit renewal form.