(STAFF REPORTS/Chewelah Independent)
Facing a $37 million deficit, Washington Fish and Wildlife may cut back the division that responds to wildlife conflicts, reports the Capital Press. According to reporting by Don Jenkins, the division which was created in 2013 to keep wildlife from hurting people and property, could be on the chopping block. This division responds to animal conflicts like cougars and black bears.
While the state budget did appropriate money to manage conflicts with wolves in Ferry and Stevens County it did not appropriate $4.36 million the department said it needed to maintain the statewide division.
WDFW said lawmakers needed to erase a $31 million deficit which deepened to $37 million after the legislators approved pay increases. They did allow for $24 million in general taxes to help the deficit, but did not vote in favor to hike hunting and fishing fees. Local State Rep Joel Kretz had proposed a bill that would tax high-end recreation apparel and equipment to help fund the department but the bill did not get passed.
According to the Capital Press, from 2013 to 2017, complaints about wildlife rose 31 percent. WDFW fielded 2,672 calls in 2017 about dangerous animals.