Guest column: Peace, love and killing bears (opinion)
In a shocking display of disregard for public values, the Nevada Wildlife Commission voted on Jan. 27 to expand the 2018 bear hunt, adding two more hunt units and expanding the time hunters can kill bears to before sunrise and after sunset.
Commissioner and hunter Brad Johnston railroaded the expansion through by amending the areas recommended by NDOW and approved by the County Advisory Boards for Wildlife. The hunter dominated commission all voted to support the expansion, except for public representative Kerstan Hubbs and conservation representative Dave McNinch. Without offering any supportive data for the expansion, NDOW biologist Pat Jackson rubber stamped the proposal, further solidifying NDOW’s misguided “killing is conservation” management strategy.
What we know about the Nevada bear hunt, instituted in 2011 after a 90-year hiatus, is that
1. The hunt serves no management purpose, such as population control or reducing human/bear conflict. According to the 2014 published findings of the NDOW Bear Committee, the hunt was instituted for the sole purpose of providing a recreational hunting opportunity for the 45 or so Nevadans who draw tags annually.
2. Since its inception, the hunt has become the leading source of bear mortality in Nevada, outpacing previous sources such as being hit by cars, executions for public safety, etc. (NDOW bear data)
While NDOW is admonishing the public regarding how to avoid harm to bears through better trash management, caution while driving and so forth, the source of greatest harm to bears is coming not from the public, but from this commission’s policies in instituting and continuing an unnecessary and vastly unpopular hunt.
It is no wonder that under such leadership, the level of disenfranchisement and litigation between members of the public and the wildlife commission and agency over bear management has grown to what we see today.
The fact that the bear hunt provides “recreation” for approximately 45 sport hunters each year underscores the commission’s focus on the satisfaction of hunters over the ethical concerns of other Nevadans.
A 2017 survey conducted by Remington Research Group showed that only 19 percent of Americans support killing an animal for the purpose of saving its head, hide or parts, while 69 percent oppose such “trophy” hunting.
The Nevada Wildlife Commission’s decision to continue and expand the Nevada bear hunt could well be driving the downtrend in hunter recruitment by supporting policies that stigmatize hunters and hunting in general.
The regulatory capture of a state agency by a special interest group could not be more evident than in the management of the public trust of Nevada’s small bear population. Legislation to reorganize the Wildlife Commission to fairly represent the values and concerns of ALL Nevadans is needed. The current make up of the commission requiring majority representation of consumptive users of wildlife fails to do so.
Nevada means home to our iconic black bears, too. Let’s stop killing them for kicks.
Kathryn Bricker is a Zephyr Cove resident.