Nevada wildlife budget might affect response times by game wardens |

Nevada wildlife budget might affect response times by game wardens

Associated Press Writer
Nevada Assemblyman Pete Giocoechea, R-Eureka, speaks Thursday afternoon, Feb. 5, 2009, in a hearing at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev. Giocoechea spoke at a hearing earlier Thursday opposing Department of Wildlife staff cuts due to concerns over increased potential for human and wildlife conflicts. (AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Cathleen Allison)

Staffing cuts within the Nevada Wildlife Department prompted concerns Thursday from legislators about slow responses from the agency when people call about bears or other wild animals around their homes.

Under Gov. Jim Gibbons’ proposed budget for fiscal year 2010-11, the agency would lose more than a third of its overall general fund budget. Divisions within the agency would see cuts ranging anywhere from 15 percent to 60 percent.

Nevada now has 34 game wardens stationed around the state who handle, among other things, calls from the public about threats from wildlife. But four of those positions may be cut, and legislators cautioned that could be dangerous.

“Folks, we’re digging a big hole here,” said Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “We’re going to have more and more people-wildlife conflicts, especially in those urban areas.

“Whether it’s raccoons, bears in this area, coyotes or bobcats in Southern Nevada, they’re cutting back to the point where we won’t be able to respond and clearly, at some point that does become a threat.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said she and some of her constituents already have problems with raccoons, that in some cases have rabies.

“I had the unpleasant experience of two raccoons in my basement in the last year,” Leslie said. “I did not feel equipped to trap and remove these huge raccoons in my basement. In southwest Reno, it is like a plague. They come up from the sewers, and

they become very aggressive.”

When asked for a solution, state Wildlife Department Director Ken Mayer said he believed a “cottage industry” of “critter gitters” could develop. Leslie said she made many calls before she found someone who could help her.

“When we have a dangerous situation, when there’s a bear in a person’s cabin, we will respond,” Mayer said. “We’ll send a biologist, we’ll trap the bear, the wardens will participate.”

What they won’t be able to do is meet with landowners to talk through how to keep critters away from their home, because they would be cutting back on wildlife education. And the department no longer would be able to answer calls from the public to help injured wild animals.

Mayer said that cities and counties are helping to address problems with bears and teach residents how to reduce the likelihood that they will attract the beasts.

On the plus side, Mayer said fears over increased gun controls after President Barack Obama was elected last November spurred a national gun-buying spree, which generated a windfall of $800,000 in fees for the state agency.