RENO — Nevada wildlife commissioners are pursuing plans to establish a bear hunting season for the first time in state history, saying Nevada’s bruin population now is stable enough to allow for one.
Wildlife commission Chairman Scott Raine said Nevada is the only Western state without such a hunt and he thinks it could help reduce human-bear conflicts along the eastern Sierra, including the Reno-Lake Tahoe area.
The panel still must work out details such as when the hunting season would take place and how many bears would be harvested annually, he said.
“Nevada has the lowest bear population in the West, but it’s stable and growing,” Raine said. “They get a little bit of fear of people in them (from being hunted) and hopefully they won’t come in contact with people. It might prevent some from being euthanized.”
Nevada is home to at least 200 to 300 bears along the eastern Sierra, with most inhabiting the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe’s east shore, said Carl Lackey, a biologist with the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
The state also has viable bear populations in the Wassuk and Sweetwater ranges farther to the south, Lackey said, but no estimate is available for their numbers.
“I agree we do have a population that would support a small hunt,” he said. “Our latest figures show it’s growing at a rate of 16 percent a year, and that’s despite our losing an average of about two dozen bears a year due to human-related reasons.”
Over the past 14 years, an annual average of 23 bears in Nevada have either been struck and killed by vehicles or euthanized as a result of conflicts with humans, he said.
Don Molde of Reno, a former board member of the Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the Humane Society of the United States, said the commission is caving in to the pressure of hunting groups and the state’s bear population can’t sustain a hunt.
The commission could take final action on the proposal as early as December after hearing from the public at a Sept. 24-25 meeting in Las Vegas.