Nevada considers first ever bear hunt | VailDaily.com

Nevada considers first ever bear hunt

Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

RENO, Nev. (AP) ” Nevada wildlife officials, who have dealt with a record number of bear complaints this year, are considering holding the state’s first-ever black bear hunting season.

It appears the state’s bear population could support a hunting season but further study is needed, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners was told Friday. About 300 adult bears live in the state, primarily around Lake Tahoe.

“It’s a hunter recreation opportunity. We believe there is a harvestable surplus of bears out there,” said Kevin Lansford, wildlife staff specialist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

But experts warned commissioners not to look at hunting as a way to deal with bears raiding neighborhoods in search of food. Such bears typically spend their lives close to homes, while a hunt probably would be restricted to wild bears in the backcountry, they said.

“Having a bear hunt will have very little, if any, impact on nuisance bears,” said Russ Mason, the department’s game division chief.

Department biologist Carl Lackey agreed: “We’re almost dealing with two distinct bear populations.”

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Wildlife officials have received hundreds of phone calls this year about bears raiding residential areas in the Reno-Tahoe area, where a drought has drastically reduced their natural food sources.

More than a dozen bears have been killed by authorities after entering homes, and a record 75 bears have been struck and killed by vehicles in the area, according to the Lake Tahoe-based BEAR League.

Unlike California and other states, Nevada has never had a bear hunting season.

Department officials were directed to report back to the commission when it meets February in Las Vegas, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.

Because state lawmakers would have to establish fees for bear tags, the earliest a bear hunting season could begin is 2010.

Approval of a bear hunt could be controversial and require substantial public relations outreach, acknowledged Kenneth Mayer, department director.

“This is a fairly passionate issue with a lot of people,” Mayer said.

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com