Las Vegas Sun

August 25, 2016

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Gov. Brian Sandoval declines to call off state’s first bear hunt

It looks like Nevada’s going on a bear hunt Saturday.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has ignored pleas for him to block Nevada’s first-ever bear hunt, scheduled for Saturday, ending opponents' hopes for a last-minute intervention.

The issue has captured the attention of Northern Nevadans, with opponents to the bear hunt submitting 15,000 signatures to the governor’s office calling for it to be cancelled.

“He supports the (Nevada Wildlife) Commission on this regulation and expects that the information this hunt will yield can ultimately aid in the conservation of wildlife populations, including bears,” according to a statement from Sandoval’s spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner. She said the commission adopted the regulation based on “scientific standards.”

Earlier Monday, a handful of protesters gathered outside the Capitol Building. “We want a stay of execution,” said Kat Simmons, of Gardnerville. “We want him to intervene and stop the hunt.”

The state Wildlife Commission in February gave final approval for the hunt after its biologists said the state’s bear population could support a hunt.

Concerns have been raised by opponents about the proximity to hiking and bike paths to hunting areas; questioned the department’s science; and warned that the bear hunt could scare off tourists or those looking at second homes here. It has also brought out a fondness for the black bears.

The state issued 45 tags to hunters, with the season extending through December. The season will end if 20 bears are “harvested,” or if six female bears are killed. Chris Healy, a spokesman for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said at least 350 to 400 bears inhabit Nevada, mostly near Lake Tahoe. The population, he said, has been growing.

Other states, including California, have allowed bear hunting for years.

Healy acknowledged that the hunt has received a lot of attention. A bear hunt was last seriously considered in the 1990s, but the department was not confident in its science. “That and social concerns - what people think of a bear hunt” prevented the bear hunt, Healy said.

Since 1997, there have been 307 bear mortalities in Nevada, Healy said. About 150 of those were caused by car accidents; another 91 were killed because of public safety concerns.

Healy said that while the Nevada bear hunt starts Saturday, hunters in other states usually wait until the weather is cooler and the bears have a more robust coat.

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