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No, there is no ‘Nevada Black Bear’

Some animal lovers oppose all hunting. It’s violent, and we no longer need to hunt for fur or food to subsist, they argue.

On the other side are those who insist hunting is part of a traditional American outdoor culture that teaches self-sufficiency, along with other skills and virtues, some of occasional use to the Army. They also point out that mankind is the continent’s top predator by default, and that if man doesn’t thin populations of large predators and herbivores they will overpopulate, become pests and eventually starve.

Not content to argue the matter on its merits, some on the anti-hunting side have resorted to another of their ever-more-creative uses of the Endangered Species Act. Which led to Tuesday’s ruling by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that Nevada’s 700-odd black bears are not distinct from other bear populations in the region and thus do not warrant federal protection under the act.

“It’s the same black bears on either side of the California and Nevada state line, and there is no biological difference associated with this political boundary,” explains Ted Koch, Nevada state supervisor for the federal agency.

The finding comes in response to a petition filed in September by two wildlife groups, NoBearHuntNV.org and Oregon-based Big Wildlife, which opposed establishing a bear hunting season in Nevada. Fourteen bears were killed in the state’s inaugural hunt last year.

Kathryn Bricker, with the Nevada anti-hunting group, said biologists lack data to make an adequate determination on the health of and threats to so-called “sky island” bear populations scattered in Nevada’s western mountains. Right.

The Endangered Species Act was enacted to prevent Americans having to read of the death of the continent’s last bison, grizzly bear or bald eagle. Anyone warning, at the time of passage, that it would be used to block human use of vast areas via pretend concern over the fate of obscure weeds and bugs would have been dismissed as an alarmist with an overactive imagination.

To twist the law to declare that entire mountains have to be off limits for human use because some isolated handful of squirrels live there – the same species of squirrel that swarms woods and suburban neighborhoods nationwide – is absurd. This notion of unique “sky island” bears is of a kind.

The Endangered Species Act should be revisited – at least to severely restrict its application to more closely match its original, limited purpose.

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