Wildlife panel to consider Nevada bear hunt seasons
Associated Press Writer
RENO, Nev. – Nevada wildlife commissioners, considering allowing black bears to be hunted for the first time in state history, are proposing a six-month season from June to December.
Regulations to implement the hunt will be considered by the nine-member commission that sets wildlife policy when it meets in Las Vegas on Saturday, the last day of a two-day meeting.
The commission will discuss setting two different bear seasons, an archery-only season running June 1 through Sept. 14, and another Sept. 15 through Dec. 15 allowing hunters to use any legal weapon and dogs. Using dogs would be prohibited in summer, and the killing of a cub or a sow with cubs would be illegal any time.
One proposal is for setting a quota of 45 tags that could be used to hunt in any area open to bear hunting. The season would close when either six female bruins or a total of 20 are taken.
Nevada’s bear population around Lake Tahoe is estimated at 200-300. Bears also are found in the Wassuk and Sweetwater areas farther south of Lake Tahoe, though biologists do not have an estimate on their numbers.
A tag fee of $50 for residents and $200 for nonresidents would generate $3,000 for the wildlife agency. Other application and bear management fees could bring in thousands more, depending on the number of applicants, according to background documents included on the Nevada Department of Wildlife’s website.
Commission Chairman Scott Raine has said initiating a hunt could help reduce human-bear conflicts that often lead to bears becoming a nuisance and having to be destroyed.
“They get a little bit of fear of people in them (from being hunted) and hopefully they won’t come in contact with people,” he said earlier. “It might prevent some from being euthanized.”
Critics disagree, and point to a 2004 report from biologists with the Nevada Department of Wildlife that said after a male bear is removed from urban neighborhoods, another will appear and take up residence “within days or weeks.”
“A legal harvest season would then not seem to be a solution to the nuisance bear problem, although the population as a whole may absorb the harvest,” the report said.
Carl Lackey, a bear biologist with the wildlife agency, said Nevada’s bear population has been growing about 16 percent a year. Over the past 14 years, an annual average of 23 bears have either been struck and killed by vehicles or euthanized as a result of conflicts with humans.
Don Molde, a former board member of the Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the Humane Society of the United States, sees other problems with a bear hunt – the possibility of injury to hikers, campers, pets and residents should a large bear be wounded and go on an angry rampage, especially during the archery season.
In a letter to Raine, he said the wildlife agency’s 2004 report noted that 85 percent of the bears in the Tahoe Basin urban interface are males.
“Since sportsmen prefer to kill large males, the possibility for such trouble as I’ve postulated is easy to predict,” he wrote.
Molde and others say the wildlife department that is overseen by the commission has worked hard over the years to build a coalition and educate people about not feeding bears or leaving trash out that attracts them.
Lee Ann Malone, who lives in Incline Village on Tahoe’s east shore, also wrote to oppose the bear hunt and suggested tougher anti-feeding laws and more emphasis on public education.
In an e-mail response, Raine said the agency is mostly funded by license, tag and other fees paid by sportsmen.
“If you want money for wildlife conservation, hunters’ donations and self-imposed taxes are the primary source nationwide,” Raine wrote. “Of course getting hunters to donate money requires having an open bear season.”
Jeremy Drew, with Safari Club International’s northern Nevada chapter, said the hunters organization has not taken a position on the bear proposal.
“We would only support a hunt if its determined to be ecologically and economically viable,” he said, adding it would be up to the agency to make that determination.