Nevada bear hunting season stirs strong emotions in Lake Tahoe Basin | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Nevada bear hunting season stirs strong emotions in Lake Tahoe Basin

There's no season like bear season to stir up emotions in Western Nevada and the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Bear hunting season opened Friday, Sept. 15, and was met with opposition in Nevada.

About 50 peaceful protesters appeared with signs from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Reno Star sculpture to demonstrate their disapproval over hunters, and dogs, targeting bruins.

"We thought the turnout was real positive," Kathryn Bricker, of NoBearHuntNV.org told the Tribune earlier this week. "We were out at the busiest intersection in Reno (S. Virginia Street and McCarran Boulevard) and got lots of cheers and honks from cars passing by."

Bear season lasts through Dec. 1, unless the 20 bears the Nevada Department of Wildlife has approved for harvest are taken before that date.

Bricker and her group tried to get bears protected in Nevada in 2013 but couldn't get a bill passed through legislation. They also tried to get a bill passed to ban hound hunting, where Bricker says dogs either chase bears up a tree or force them to fight the pack on the ground. But Nevada Assembly Bill 433 was "adjourned sine die," with the key word in the phrase being "die." The bill was not assigned for further meeting or hearing.

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"Not only does NV allow bear hunting, but does so using hunting methods considered so unnecessarily cruel that they have been banned in over half of the states conducting bear hunts," Bricker said in a press release. "The majority of bears killed in Nevada hunts are chased by packs of dogs to exhaustion, where they turn and fight on the ground or climb a tree to be shot and fall to their deaths. Such thrill kills have no place in ethical hunting."

According to the NDOW website, 11 bears were harvested in 2016, eight with the help of dogs. The total number of bears taken since the season was started in 2011 is 82. The annual limit of 20 per season hasn't yet been reached.

"I think everybody has a voice, and it's good there are people out there that care about wildlife," said Chris Vasey, conservation education chief/adminstrator for the NDOW. "But the harvest we have set is very conservative. And it takes a lot of skill to hunt bears — that's why we haven't yet approached our harvest limit."

The bear population, which Vasey said is shared with California, is about 400 to 450, which is roughly the same number as 2011 when NDOW gave hunters a chance to harvest bears after a thorough review of the long-term viability of the bruins' future.

In the Lake Tahoe Basin, people are passionate and on both sides of the fence about hunting bears.

"I think people here in the Tahoe Basin have an attachment to bears because they are seen on a daily basis, and we're sensitive to those issues," Vasey said. "We don't have any controversy over hunting like we do with bears and the controversy is mostly in the Tahoe Basin."

Vasey said hunting bears, even with dogs, is difficult and takes a good amount of skill.

"It's one tough hunt, they're very elusive," said Vasey, who gets his information from many bear hunters. "You have to be in incredible shape. You can lose a bear by not getting to it. It's a sport in itself just trying to keep up with the dogs."

Tag holders in Nevada must call the Black Bear Harvest Information Hotline (800-800-1667) prior to hunting to determine if the hunt is ongoing or closed due to the limit being reached.

After the bear is harvested, hunters must report it (775-688-BEAR) to the Nevada Department of Wildlife within 72 hours.

Across the state line, 90 bears have been harvested as of Sept. 14 out of 1,700 allowed, according to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website.

CDFW data shows bear populations have increased in recent years and they are being observed where they weren't seen 50 years ago, according to its website.

Hunters may harvest one bear per season and it must be taken between one hour before sunrise and sunset.

As far as future protests and legislation goes, Bricker and Nevada bear hunt opponents are not backing down.

Said Bricker, "We will keep attempting legislation, but I don't know yet what form it will take."

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