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Nevada wildlife officials preparing $1M proposal

RENO – Nevada wildlife officials say they plan to ask lawmakers for $1 million to help deal with conflicts between people and wildlife, but are skeptical about getting the money during the current budget crisis.

Rob Buonamici, chief game warden for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, says the problem is growing.

"We’re being cut, and we’re trying to absorb additional duties and quite honestly, it’s not working very well," Buonamici said. "We are not meeting public expectations."

Buonamici says help often isn’t available for nuisances such as raccoons, bears or coyotes.

Buonamici says the department is proposing a two-year program that would employ two game wardens and a biologist and include an educational effort.

But he called the proposal "extremely, extremely unlikely" to win legislative approval.

"It’s not going to happen," he said.

Carl Lackey, a state biologist and bear expert, said weather conditions made bear break-ins less severe in 2008 and 2009 compared with previous years, but conflicts still existed, including repeated raids by a large bear in north Lake Tahoe.

"Last year, we received a lot of complaints when we told people we could not respond," Lackey said.

Buonamici said the state has seen increased problems with coyotes in southern Nevada, where the animals often take pets, because the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services stopped its operations.

Jack Spencer Jr., a supervisory biologist for the USDA, said federal funding to control coyotes and other animals that cause problems in Nevada was cut by 35 percent, forcing the program to be shut down and three positions eliminated.

Buonamici said that even though he’s skeptical, he feels his agency must try to get more funds.

"We’re not very optimistic, but we feel we owe it to the public to try," he said. "The calls keep coming in. The public keeps asking, screaming, shouting for this service. We owe it to them to give it a shot."

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