Tonawanda News

March 7, 2013

DEC to test for wildlife licenses

Staff Reports
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — New York will offer apprentice licenses for those seeking to become more hands-on with state wildlife. 

Examinations for individuals seeking an apprentice license to practice the sport of falconry, to become a licensed volunteer wildlife rehabilitator or those interested in obtaining a license to use leashed tracking dogs to find wounded or injured big game animals are scheduled for April 19, the state Department of Environmental Conservation said.

Lori Severino, a DEC spokeswoman, said all three licenses would qualify individuals to participate on a volunteer basis. 

“It a process and a commitment,” she said. “But we certainly encourage folks to take the tests if they have the capability to practice what is required. There’s certainly a need for volunteers.” 

The exams will run from 10 a.m. to noon at DEC regional offices across the state. The deadline for registering to take any of the exams is April 5.

Falconry has a rich history and tradition throughout the world. In the United States, recognition and acceptance of falconry as a sport is promoted primarily through the efforts of dedicated enthusiasts. There are 250 licensed falconers in New York.

Practitioners say falconry is a demanding sport that requires a significant commitment in time and effort. There is no charge to take the written falconry apprentice exam. To qualify for the DEC apprentice falconry license, applicants must be at least 14, possess a valid New York state hunting license that authorizes the hunting of small-game and maintain DEC-approved facilities for housing the raptors. Apprentices are limited to possessing one bird, either an American kestrel or a red-tailed hawk. The cost of a five-year falconry license is $40. 

“Falconry is very specialized,” Severino said. “The DEC doesn’t offer training but we provide a list of sponsors that are already general or master falconers.” 

After two years as an apprentice falconer, a licensee may qualify for a general falconry license. To become a master falconer, the licensee must have a minimum five years experience practicing falconry at the general falconry level.

Wildlife rehabilitators care for injured, sick and orphaned wild animals and prepare the animals for their return to their natural surroundings. 

A wildlife rehabilitator study guide and examination manual are available to applicants for $15 a set. The study materials will also include the application necessary for registration. The materials were developed by wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians and biologists to teach applicants about the practice of wildlife rehabilitation, including technical requirements for licensed volunteers.

Wildlife rehabilitators applicants must be at least 16, submit two character references along with their application, have no convictions for violations of state environmental conservation law and be interviewed by a DEC regional wildlife staff person. Prospective applicants are encouraged to gain experience by serving as an assistant to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. 

For a leashed tracking dog handler license, a score of 80 percent or higher on the written exam and a valid state big game hunting license are mandatory requirements. There is a $50 license fee, and a $25 non-refundable processing fee associated with the license, which expires five years from the date of issuance.

To apply for any of these exams, contact DEC’s special licenses unit at (518) 402-8985.