Wildlife Commission expected to allow hunters to kill more bears

By: - May 2, 2024 3:40 pm

(Nevada Department of Wildlife photo)

For more than a decade, hunters in Nevada have been limited to killing 20 bears a year. But in recent years that number has climbed, and on Friday, the Nevada Wildlife Commission is expected to vote to allow hunters to kill 42 bears come September.

Nevada’s first bear hunt in 2011 authorized the sale of 45 tags and permitted that 20 bears be killed, including six females, according to wildlife commission documents. The quota – the number of tags sold to prospective hunters – was later increased to 50 tags but the hunting limit remained at 20 bears. 

Last year, despite a recommendation from the Department of Wildlife that hunters be limited to killing 20 bears, the commission voted to decrease the quota to 37 tags but increase the number of bears that could be killed to 37. 

On Friday, the commission will vote on a proposal to make 42 tags available and permit hunters to kill 42 bears, this time in accordance with the department’s recommendation. 

“Since the commission drastically increased these limits to match the quota, it seems the department has followed their lead,” says Cathy Smith, a board member of No Bear Hunt Nevada. 

The move is a surprise to animal advocates, given recent criticism of the commission for failing to represent the vast majority of Nevadans who do not hunt and favor coexisting with wildlife over their slaughter.

“We are not commenting on this at this time as it will be thoroughly addressed at tomorrow’s Commission meeting, where an NDOW bear biologist will be providing a comprehensive presentation on current bear populations,” NDOW spokeswoman Ashley Zeme said via email. “All NDOW’s recommendations are based on current population sizes. NDOW only makes recommendations, and then the Commission will make the final decision on quotas after reviewing and hearing input from the public and County Advisory Boards.”

“This hunt has always been about hunter convenience, opportunity and success and flouts the Commission’s responsibility to ‘protect wildlife.'” as required by state law, says activist Fred Voltz of the Nevada Wildlife Alliance.

“The commission and the department of wildlife have made it perfectly clear they don’t care that the majority of Nevadans are against the bear hunt and particularly against the use of dogs in the bear hunt,” says animal rights activist Carolyn Stark, noting that last year, all 19 bears killed in the hunt were “chased by hounds and then shot dead out of a tree.”

Stark says the department and commission “made it perfectly clear that they could care less that bear hunters killed two lactating females in last year’s hunt. This undoubtedly orphaned the dependent cubs as well.” 

The commission is dominated by hunting and ranching interests under a statutory scheme that requires it to have five “sportsmen,” i.e. hunters, fishermen or trappers who have purchased a license in three of the past four years, one rancher, one farmer, one conservationist, and one member of the public.

The lopsided membership, critics say, renders the board ineffective and preoccupied with looking out for ranchers and hunters at the peril of the wildlife it is charged with protecting.

“Less than 3% of the population hunts. Yet, 8 of 9 (89%) of commissioners making decisions about wildlife, hunt,” says Stark. “They make decisions based on their own biases and preferences.”

“I knew where the commission is regarding changing wildlife values – the majority don’t believe it,” says Smith. She says the recommendation to allow more bears to be killed illustrates the commission’s lack of concern for public sentiment regarding trophy hunting.

“Wildlife, particularly bears, mountain lions and now moose will never get a fair shake in this state under the current system,” says Stark.

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

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