Nevada hunting regulators have granted permission to double the number of bears that can be killed

Thayne Muthler

A proposal to raise the yearly bear hunting limit to 42 has been accepted by the Nevada Wildlife Commission. This is more than double the amount permitted during the first ten years of the hunt, which began in 2011.

The commission has come under fire for this judgment because it did not sufficiently represent the views of the majority of Nevadans, who want peaceful cohabitation with animals. Numerous surveys, such as one by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, have demonstrated that a sizable portion of the populace shares this opinion.

The bear population has stayed constant since the start of the hunt, according to supporters of the enhanced bear hunting limit. Opponents point out that there is a dearth of reliable information on the true number of bears in Nevada.

The only member of the board representing environmentalists, Commissioner David McNinch, voiced concerns over the broad range of confidence in estimating the number of black bears in Nevada. He questioned why, rather than using a more cautious estimate of 240 bears, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) decided to calculate the quota increase at the upper end of the range, 700 bears.

The 95% confidence level, which varies by several hundred animals, was also questioned by Dr. Donald Molde of the Nevada Wildlife Alliance. He said that this practically makes the confidence level worthless. He recommended that a precise figure be used as opposed to such a broad range.

Dr. Molde thought that the NDOW needed to choose cautious figures since it is hard to estimate populations of any species with any degree of accuracy.

The new hunting rule is expected to kill between 1.9% and 2.7% of the population. NDOW researchers predict that annual mortality might be as high as 14% of the population without putting the species in jeopardy.

Fred Voltz of the Nevada Wildlife Alliance voiced concerns regarding the "selected information" that NDOW had supplied during the commission hearing. Regarding the erratic bear population estimates, he contended that the partial responses created more problems than they addressed.

Voltz drew attention to the fact that 20 bears were killed by hunters out of the 74 bear fatalities that the NDOW documented in 2021 and 71 in 2022. But the department's study in favor of the higher hunting limit neglected to take into account bear mortality from non-hunting causes.

Voltz stressed that bears who are orphaned, killed by other animals, engaged in auto accidents, or perish in the wild were not included in the published figures. Voltz's submission to the commission states that NDOW did not evaluate these new reasons of death.

The NDOW, which is in charge of protecting wildlife, places more emphasis on managing species than on individual creatures.

"Is it moral to ignore an animal's individual suffering and just see it as a member of a bigger population?" During the public comment period, commissioners were questioned by Cathy Smith of No Bear Kill, Nevada. "I don't think so, because I know most of you know that animals suffer, and that suffering may be made worse by human behavior."

The new regulation limits hunters to taking just 14 females, or one-third of the overall quota, in a single hunting season. Nine out of the 19 bears that were slain last year, or over half of them, were female. Among them were two that had small pups and one that was still nursing.

Hounding is the practice of using dogs to track bears up trees, and hunters have defended this procedure as a way to ascertain the gender of the bear before it is killed.

The notion that hounding keeps female bears from being hunted was dismissed by McNinch as "nonsense," citing the nearly equal distribution of genders among bears that were hunted last year.

A recent NDOW study found that just 13% of Nevadans are in favor of hounding. In an attempt to vent her annoyance, Kathryn Bricker of No Bear Hunt Nevada questioned the commissioners about the number of times they should hear from the public before considering their concerns. A juvenile female bear in the Mt. Rose woodland was cornered by houndsman's dogs in a video that Bricker posted on social media. Bricker is still haunted by the horror in her eyes and her fearful cries. Instead of the bear being attacked by the dogs while it was still alive, she prayed that it had already passed away when it fell from the tree.

There were hunters who advocated for lifting the ban on killing female bears and raising the bear hunt limit. The lone public member on the board, Commissioner Alana Wise, questioned the necessity of hounds in certain cases and proposed doing away with them completely.

While it's against the law in California, hounding has grown to be a profitable profession in Nevada, where houndsmen and guides make thousands of dollars helping tag winners with their hunting pursuits.

The prepared modification, which kept the ban on killing female bears and permitted the use of hounds, was quickly accepted by the commission.

McNinch told his colleagues about a number of incidences, mostly from Northern Nevada, that sparked complaints from irate locals. As an illustration, a lawfully placed trap grabbed a deer. In addition, there was an instance where a deer was shot in a residential neighborhood using a bow and arrow.

He said, "It looks like this wasn't the first time," in reference to the unlawful shooting.

Additionally, McNinch related a story about a Wyoming guy who purposefully drove a wolf down with a snowmobile, tortured the animal, and then shot it.

Animal activists consider the wolf's anguish, the two-year-old bear's death from being chased, and the deer's days-long captivity to be equally upsetting.

McNinch voiced worry about the repercussions of discharging our duties and the absence of robust legislation discouraging particular behaviors. He criticized such acts and underlined the necessity of acting. He also issued a warning that Nevada may see instances of this nature.

However, Tommy Caviglia, the head of the commission, called the person in charge of the wolf incident "brain dead." Caviglia has continuously advocated coyote-killing competitions, which award competitors for taking down the greatest number of coyotes, and he is in favor of raising the bear hunt limit.

As the lone commissioner to vote against permitting further bear killings and opposing killing contests, McNinch said he couldn't understand why his colleagues supported indiscriminate slaughter. He said that he is finding it harder and harder to understand this problem and their way of thinking.

Caviglia remained silent when pressed for a response.