Nevada Indians protest bear hunts

CARSON CITY — About 30 members of Nevada Indian tribes danced, drummed and sang outside the Legislative Building on Monday to protest the killing of bears, animals they call sacred brothers and sisters.

The Indians want the Legislature to pass Senate Bill 82 to outlaw bear hunting in Nevada. In the past two years, 25 bears have been taken in the first bear hunting seasons in state history.

Raquel Arthur, a member of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe, said every tribe in Nevada has signed a petition calling for an end to the hunts. She said Indians consider bears their relative and a healing symbol.

She added that her brother was gathering pine nuts last year when bear hunters fired shots about 50 yards from him. The fall bear hunt and pine nut gathering occur at the same time, she said.

Arthur said Gov. Brian Sandoval has not responded to petitions signed by 800 tribal members calling for an end to the season, nor has the Wildlife Commission supported their moves.

She said the Department of Wildlife has ignored inquiries about the location of the kills. Her father, Webster Arthur, said the group suspects five of the bears were killed on Indian land, where hunting by non-Indians is prohibited.

The governor’s office and the Wildlife Department denied the allegations.

Mary-Sarah Kinner, Sandoval’s press secretary, released a letter sent in December by Wildlife Commission Chairman Jack Robb to the Inter-Tribal Council. In the letter, Robb noted that hunters holding the 45 bear tags issued each year must attend meetings where they are given maps showing off-limits land.

Before the 2012 season, steps were taken to make hunters aware of Indian land in the Pine Nut Mountains near Gardnerville, where 11 bears have been taken, Robb said.

Wildlife Department spokesman Chris Healy said his agency has not received requests from tribes to identify locations of bear kills. He said the agency doesn’t pinpoint those locations but noted there is a lot of “checkerboard land” in the Pine Nut Mountains where private, public and Indian lands are mixed.

Healy said the commission estimates there are 400 to 700 bears in Nevada, up from 250 to 300 when the hunts began.

Kinner said the governor respects the protesters but supports the Wildlife Commission’s decision on bear hunts and “believes (they) will aid in healthier wildlife populations.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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