Roof damage caused by raccoons
What is a Wildlife Control Operator? A wildlife control operator (WCO) is an experienced and professional trapper who has successfully completed WCO training and obtained one or more levels of certification from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in order to handle nuisance wildlife issues and charge a fee. A WCO is not an employee of WDFW. Instead, a WCO is a private entity who sets their own fees to assist landowners in the prevention or control of wildlife-related damage. Remember, it is unlawful for a person to trap, harass, or control nuisance wildlife on the property of another AND charge a fee unless they have a valid WCO certificate. If you are a WCO, or you are interested in becoming a WCO, please review the following FAQs for detailed answers to many important questions.
Visit the following link for more information that can help you decide if becoming a WCO is right for you (Choosing a career in Wildlife Damage Control).
Per WAC 232-36-060, the following items are required to become a WCO:
- Must be 18 years of age,
- Must pass the Washington State Trapper Education Exam with a minimum passing score of 90%,
- Possess a minimum of two (2) years' experience that demonstrates the knowledge and ability to control wildlife species causing conflict or property damage. Methods by which you can document experience must include one (1) of the following, but are not limited to:
- Possess a trapper's license for two (2) years,
- Provide a letter of recommendation from a currently certified WCO or trapper, documenting two (2) years' experience,
- Provide evidence of employment in the wildlife abatement field for two (2) years,
- Provide a written statement verifying you are currently working with a certified WCO and have done so for two (2) years,
- OR other method as identified by the department,
- Must be legally eligible to possess a firearm. If you have been charged with a felony or domestic violence conviction in the past including, but not limited to, convictions under RCW 9.41, your firearm possession rights must have been restored,
- Must not have within the last three (3) years:
- More than one (1) finding of "paid" or "committed", as final disposition, for an infraction under RCW 77.15,
- OR a conviction for a fish and wildlife crime under RCW 77.15,
- Pay a $50 enrollment fee at the time of certification training/education,
- Complete and pass the agency's WCO certification course and submit an application for consideration to become a WCO after course completion
Note: WDFW will conduct a criminal history background check to verify requirements 4 and 5 listed above.
Among other requirements, WCO applicants must complete the WDFW trapper education training or take the written examination on their own and achieve a minimum passing score of 90% on the Trapper Education exam to receive the WA trapper certification. If you are interested in taking a classroom course, visit the Washington State Trapper's Association website (watrappers.com) to determine the next available class. If you want to study for the test on your own and take the test at a WDFW regional office, please visit the following link to obtain a downloadable Trapper Student Manual and Study Guide and contact information for the WDFW regional and headquarters offices (Trapper Education Home Study Option). You first must contact the headquarters or regional office to schedule a date and time to take the test.
WCO certification classes are held in both Olympia and Spokane twice each year. Classes in Olympia are held at the headquarters' office in the Natural Resources Building, Room 175*, on the first Friday of March and the first Friday of August each year. Classes in Spokane are held at the Region 1 office in the conference room on the fourth Friday of March and the fourth Friday of August each year. Approximately 6 weeks before the class date, a link to sign up for the class will be made available at the top of this webpage. Class details and time will be provided during the sign-up process. Because class sizes are limited at each location and are first-come, first-served, interested parties must sign up online to confirm a seat for the class. Classes are approximately 4-5 hours long. Each student must pass a WCO Exam provided at the end of class, with a minimum passing score of 90%. Note that each student must pay a $50 enrollment fee on the day of the training, just prior to the start of class. Addresses to each of the locations are:
Natural Resources Building
1111 Washington St. SE
Olympia, WA 98501
Region 1 Office
2315 North Discovery Place
Spokane Valley, WA 99216-1566
*room location is subject to change, please check for signs at the location
WAC 232-36-060 requires that a person possess a minimum of two (2) years' experience that demonstrates the knowledge and ability to control wildlife species causing conflict or property damage prior to taking a WCO course. For a complete list of acceptable documentation, please see "What are the requirements for getting certified as a WCO?" above. Approximately 6 weeks before a WCO class date, a link to sign up for the class will be made available at the top of this webpage. During the online sign up process, you will be prompted to upload your documentation and must do so before you can confirm a seat in the class. Prior to the class date, WDFW will examine and verify the acceptability of your documentation. If it is not acceptable, you will be notified and your name removed from the class roster.
I have completed and passed a WCO course. How do I get my WCO certificate?
Once you have completed the required training, you will be sent an application. The application must be submitted to WDFW to begin the processing of your certification. WDFW will verify that you meet the requirements listed above by examining all provided documentation and conducting a criminal history background check. If you satisfy all the requirements, a certificate will be sent to you by email or standard mail, depending on your preference. Certificates are good for three years from the date of issuance and all certifications will be issued to you as an individual. Persons working for a wildlife control company will need to provide their employer with a copy of their certification.
Damage caused by nesting starlings
There is currently a $50 certification fee, payable at the time of the certification course. A WCO can apply to renew their WCO certification when the certificate expires. There is currently no fee to apply for certification renewal.
A WCO certificate is valid for three (3) years from the date of issuance. The beginning and expiration dates are listed on each certificate. It is the responsibility of each WCO to be aware of these dates and apply for renewal when necessary by sending an email to email@example.com and request an application for renewal. If you do not renew your certificate within three (3) years after your certificate expiration date, you will be deleted from our records and will have to repeat the WCO course if you wish to be recertified. Remember, it is unlawful to trap, harass, or otherwise control wildlife on the property of another for a fee without a valid WCO certification.
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and request an application to renew your certificate. There is currently no fee involved with certificate renewal. WDFW will conduct a criminal history background check for each certificate renewal. If the WCO meets all current WDFW requirements, a new certificate will be issued.
WCOs are responsible for knowing and adhering to all applicable Federal and State laws pertaining to the capture, trapping, and handling of nuisance wildlife. WCOs should regularly review these laws for changes and updates. The following are a few of the Washington State laws and rules pertaining to wildlife damage control: RCW 77.36, WAC 232-36-060, WAC 232-36-065, WAC 232-12-141 "Wild Animal Trapping," and WAC 232-12-142 "Special Trapping Permits." For a complete list of the WACs and RCWs that pertain to wildlife and WCOs, please visit 232-36 WAC and 77 RCW, respectively.
Currently, the certificate only allows a WCO to help resolve wildlife conflict issues involving specific small game/furbearer species and unclassified wildlife. WCOs are not certified to handle nuisance issues involving deer, elk, cougar, bear, moose, wolf, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, turkeys, or protected or endangered wildlife. Per WAC 232-36-051, WCOs may harass and control (non-contact methods such as hazing) or trap and euthanize the following small game/furbearer species when causing damage to private property: raccoon, fox, bobcat, beaver, muskrat, mink, river otter, weasel, hare, and cottontail rabbits. Additionally, WCOs may harass and control or trap and euthanize predatory birds [as defined in WAC 232-12-004 (2)] and unclassified wildlife, such as eastern gray squirrels, yellow-bellied marmot, coyotes, and nutria, which are causing private property damage. If a WCO encounters a nuisance wildlife situation involving a species not listed above, including badger or martin, they should contact their Regional District Biologist to request advice and assistance. When in doubt about any species, always defer to your Regional District Biologist for assistance. Please visit the following link to contact your Regional Office: WDFW Regional Offices.
WCOs are professional trappers. Per WAC 232-36-065, certified WCOs may trap authorized nuisance wildlife using either live traps OR body-gripping traps (only allowed with a special trapping permit, RCW 77.15.192) year-round. Body-gripping traps may not be used for seasonal furbearer or recreational trapping and are only permitted under circumstances involving wildlife damage and if the WCO has applied for and received a Special Trapping Permit. Body-gripping traps are defined in WAC 232-12-142. Live traps and other non-lethal means must first be used to resolve or attempt to resolve wildlife damage issues. For more information on trapping wildlife, visit the following trapping wildlife link. If these techniques do not solve a wildlife damage problem, a person may apply for a Special Trapping Permit. A Special Trapping Permit allows the use of specific body-gripping traps, and permittees must adhere to all conditions of the permit. The application for a Special Trapping Permit can be obtained at Special Trapping Permits. Completed applications should be emailed to email@example.com, faxed to 360-902-2162, OR mailed to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Wildlife Conflict Program, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA. 98501-1091.
A Special Trapping Permit allows a person to use specific body gripping traps (WAC 232-12-142) to resolve wildlife nuisance issues, but only under certain circumstances. Body-gripping traps may not be used for recreational trapping. Per RCW 77.15.194, the only body-gripping traps allowed under a Special Trapping Permit are the Conibear-type trap submerged in water, the padded leg-hold trap, or a non-strangling type foot snare. Live traps and other non-lethal means must first be used by a WCO to resolve or attempt to resolve wildlife damage issues. If these techniques do not solve a wildlife damage problem, the WCO then may apply to use body-gripping traps. The WCO must apply for and be issued a Special Trapping Permit and adhere to all conditions of the permit before the use of body-gripping traps is allowed. Special Trapping Permit applications can be obtained at Special Trapping Permits. Completed applications should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, faxed to 360-902-2162, OR mailed to Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Attn: Wildlife Conflict Program, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
A Special Trapping Permit Report Form must be submitted within 10 days after the permit expires (WAC 232-12-142), regardless of whether trapping or harvest of animals occurred or not. A WCO may retain the fur of an animal trapped under a Special Trapping Permit, as long as the WCO has a valid Washington State Trapper's license and retention of the fur is for personal use or educational purposes which do not result in retail sale or commerce (WAC 232-12-142). You may not sell a fur acquired under a Special Trapping Permit.
Lawn damage caused by raccoons
All animals trapped by a WCO must be released on-site or euthanized and properly disposed of, per WAC 232-36-055. A firearm may be used to euthanize a trapped animal. Air guns do not meet the definition of a firearm (RCW 9.41.010) and are prohibited for the euthanasia of trapped wildlife. If you euthanize an animal, you must use humane methods to do so. Inhumane and unacceptable methods of euthanasia include live burial, freezing a live animal, or drowning an animal (the exception is a legal killing set sometimes used by trappers). Widely accepted methods for euthanasia set by the American Veterinarian Medical Association include, but are not limited to:
- Carbon monoxide (CO) or carbon dioxide (CO2) supplied to a chamber from a compressed gas cylinder (small and medium sized animals).
- A shot to the head from a firearm (small and medium sized animals; check local firearm ordinances).
A WCO may not release wildlife outside of the property boundary where it was captured without a permit from WDFW or dispose of such wildlife without the consent of the property owner where wildlife is to be disposed (WAC 232-36-065).
A WCO may retain the fur of an animal trapped using non-body gripping traps during the general trapping season, as long as the WCO has a valid Washington State Trapper's license. Per WAC 232-12-142, the fur of any animal trapped under a Special Trapping Permit may only be retained by the WCO as long as the WCO has a valid Washington State Trapper's license and retention of the fur is for personal use or educational purposes which do not result in retail sale or commerce. You may not sell a fur acquired under a Special Trapping Permit. All non-target or threatened or endangered species should be released unharmed upon discovery, if possible. If a protected or endangered species is accidentally trapped and dies or requires euthanasia, the incident must be reported to WDFW within 24 hours to WILDCOMM (1-877-933-9847) or the nearest Regional Office.
You are not required to purchase and carry a valid trapping license to conduct business as a WCO (WAC 232-36-051). However, all animals trapped by a WCO that does not have a valid trapping license must be released on-site or euthanized and properly disposed of, per WAC 232-36-055. If a WCO wants to retain the fur of an animal trapped using non-body gripping traps during the general trapping season, the WCO must have a valid Washington State Trapper's license. Per WAC 232-12-142, the fur of any animal trapped under a Special Trapping Permit may only be retained by the WCO as long as the WCO has a valid Washington State Trapper's license and retention of the fur is for personal use or educational purposes which do not result in retail sale or commerce. You may not sell a fur acquired under a Special Trapping Permit.
No. WCOs are professional trappers. You may only use a firearm to euthanize trapped animals (WAC 232-12-141). Per WAC 232-36-065, certified WCOs may trap authorized nuisance wildlife using either live traps OR body-gripping traps (only allowed with a special trapping permit, RCW 77.15.192) year-round. Remember, a WCO who fails to comply with department statutes or rules as required by his or her WCO certification and associated permit may be subject to prosecution under RCW 77.15.750.
Yes. WAC 232-36-065 states that it is unlawful to trap, harass, or otherwise control wildlife on the property of another for a fee without a valid WCO certification. Carrying your certificate and having it available for inspection is a condition of your permit. The certificate allows you to prove to an inquiring wildlife officer or customer that you have a valid certificate and are lawfully allowed to address specific wildlife species causing damage to private property. When you receive your permit, please read the conditions of the permit and make sure to follow them. Per WAC 232-36-510, failure to comply with the conditions of WCO certification or permits is a misdemeanor pursuant to RCW 77.15.750.
Yes. All WCOs must submit an Annual Report each year listing all wildlife damage control activity, even if the WCO did not trap any wildlife (WAC 232-36-066). The report must be received or postmarked on or before April 20th each year, listing all activity from April 1 of the previous year through March 31 of the current reporting year. For example, your 2017 Annual Report would include all WCO-related activity, regardless if you did not trap, from April 1, 2016 through March 31, 2017. Failure to submit a report may result in the department revoking the WCO's certification and permit and suspending the person's right to future certification and permits, per WAC 232-36-065.
If you apply for and receive a Special Trapping Permit, you must submit a Special Trapping Report Form no later than 10 days after your Special Trapping Permit expires, even if no animals were trapped. Failure to submit a report for a Special Trapping Permit is unlawful, per WAC 232-12-142. Both the WCO Annual Report form and the Special Trapping report form can be found at Trapping Forms.
If you are interested in other external training, or links, please see the information below. Disclaimer: not all of the methods of capture shown in the links are allowed in Washington State and are identified as a visual reference only. If you have any questions, please contact your nearest WDFW Regional Office.
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