Lake Tahoe Basin bears will not be under the gun this summer and fall following a decision by the Nevada Wildlife Commission last weekend.
After two days of testimony Friday and Saturday, the commission voted 6-3 to remove the basin's Nevada portion from this year's bear hunt.
The decision was celebrated by opponents of the hunt, who expect to continue to fight bear hunting in other parts of the state.
"We oppose the hunt in its entirety throughout Nevada, but we are pleased to have the basin removed from the area," said Katrhyn Bricker, a Zephyr Cove resident and member of NoBearHuntNV.org.
"This is a good thing, but we want it throughout the whole rest of the state," said BEAR League Executive Director Ann Bryant.
Numerous hunters who attended the weekend meetings criticized the removal of the basin from the bear hunt, saying the decision was not based on science. Some said they felt opposition to the bear hunt was opposition to the sport as a whole and would have future impacts on hunting for other species in the area.
Wildlife Commissioner Scott Raine argued against the removal of the basin from the hunt, arguing "it's not a solution, it's not science-based."
Raine questioned whether the Tahoe Rim Trail, which the new bear hunt boundaries basically follow, is an easily recognizable and enforceable demarcation for hunters.
"It's just another trail in the woods," Raine said.
An option that would have left a large swath of the East Shore south of Spooner Summit available to bear hunters attracted some support from commissioners, but never reached a vote Saturday.
Nevada's Chief Game Warden Rob Buonamici said the Nevada Department of Wildlife always tries to make its hunting boundaries clear to hunters.
"We consistently try and simplify regulations and draft regulations in such a fashion that we aren't making inadvertent violations out of honest hunters that are trying to do the right thing, but stumble across an imaginary line and so forth," Buonamici said.
He said during indoctrination, bear hunters will be encouraged to stay "well away" from the hunt's boundaries. Hunters will still be able to access bear hunting areas from the Lake Tahoe area as long as they are not hunting inside the basin, Buonamici said.
Fourteen bears were killed during Nevada's inaugural bear hunt last year. No bears were killed in the Lake Tahoe Basin, although a 700-pound male bear was killed outside of the basin near Kingsbury Grade, according to wildlife officials.
Bricker said NoBearHuntNV will continue to oppose hunting of bears in Nevada and expects to fight quotas for this year's hunt. The wildlife commission is expected to decide on bear hunt quotas in May.