Small communities where sportsmen base their hunts for cougars and bears would take an economic hit by passage of Initiative 655.
Meanwhile, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department would face the double whammy of losing hunting license revenue while having to come up with funds to respond to cougar and bear damage complaints normally handled for free by recreational hunters.
Elimination of the use of bait and hounds for bear hunting likely will reduce hunter revenue to the state and the local economies by roughly $511,000 a year, the Fish and Wildlife Department estimated in a report requested by the state legislature.
Eliminating the use of hounds for cougar hunting could reduce revenue to the department and the local economy by about $446,000 a year.
Both of these losses would be compounded by costs the state would incur in responding to increasing cougar and bear nuisance and damage complaints.
The cost of adding 12 field agents to cope with these complaints would be about $1.2 million a year, the department estimated.
Another option would be to contract with two hound hunters to respond to damage complaints across the state. The hunters would be allowed to kill or tranquilize and relocate the animals under a special permit. The cost, again, would be about $1.2 million a year.
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