By MIKE CORN
Hunting of prairie rattlesnakes, coyotes and prairie dogs would become unregulated if legislation introduced by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee become law.
The bills pose problems -- financially -- for the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks.
Several pieces of legislation affecting Kansas wildlife have been introduced in the Legislature already this year, only one at the behest of the department.
That one would allow changes in how the agency sets prices on the use of cabins at state parks, according to Chris Tymeson, chief legal counsel for the agency.
Rental rates were drawn into the regulatory process of the agency several years ago after there was hit-and-miss system of setting prices at local parks.
But regulations can take 180 days to change, not very responsive to changing market conditions.
As a result, a new Senate bill hopes to set top-end prices.
The bill would exempt setting cabin rates from the regulatory process, Tymeson aid, "but do it at a commission meeting so the public can comment on them."
Other bills need several details worked out, Tymeson said, in part because of conflicting language. The agency so far is not supporting passage of any of the remaining bills.
One, requested by Gary Hayzlett, R-Lakin, would exempt under-16 non-resident hunters from state licensing requirements.
Currently, they are required to purchase a half-price non-resident license, which costs $38.
"Which is a fairly dramatic change," Tymeson said.
Nearly a thousand people buy that license each year, so it would cost KDWP about $40,000 annually.
That bill also would allow both residents and non-residents alike to hunt prairie dogs and coyotes without the need for a license.
Tymeson said Hayzlett is hoping to give non-residents more opportunities to hunt, primarily because they won't be willing to purchase a non-resident license for a single day of hunting.
"I think we'd be opposed to it," he said of the agency's stance on the bill. "I haven't really formulated that yet."
One of the concerns is that stripping away license requirements would allow for unregulated hunting of prairie dogs.
Unregulated hunting is just one of the concerns voiced when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looked at the possibility of listing black-tailed prairie dogs on the federal endangered species list.
A third bill, sought by Rep. Larry Powell, R-Garden City, faces a number of drafting issues, Tymeson said.
The bill would allow the use of a crossbow for people with disabilities. Crossbows already are allowed during firearms season.
But the crux of the bill would require archers to first kill a doe before they could go after a buck.
"The department is going to oppose that," Tymeson said. "It's hard enough to get in close to a deer with a bow."
As well, he said the state has a healthy deer herd, whose size is apparently about right.
The final bill, also introduced by Powell, would allow unregulated hunting of prairie rattlesnakes.
"I don't know what the issue is about," Tymeson said of why the bill was introduced. "Anyone can defend themselves. They just can't possess them."
Currently, Kansas law allows licensed hunters to kill and possess five rattlesnakes daily. Commercial permits allow twice that many.
There are drafting issues in the bill as well, he said, not to mention the issue of why just prairie rattlesnakes?
Timber and massasauga rattlesnakes also can be found in Kansas.