Nevada is continuing with its annual black bear hunt despite fire burning tens of thousands of acres of the animal’s habitat near Lake Tahoe this summer.
For a $100 tag, limited to 50 issued a year, hunters can participate in the state’s bear hunt, which runs Sept. 15 until Dec. 1.
“Folks apply from almost every state in the nation, and the last time I looked, I believe three other countries,” said Pat Jackson, predator management biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife.
The hunt is continuing this year despite the Caldor Fire, which has blackened more than 200,000 acres southwest of the lake and continues to burn.
Jackson said black bears have in recent years begun to return to Nevada, where deforestation and settlement had largely driven them from the state.
“We have at least 400 bears within the confines of Nevada,” he said “However, I wouldn't really consider that a ‘population,’ wildlife don't understand state boundaries.
Instead, he said Nevada’s bears are part of a larger group of 40,000 that inhabit the forests on both sides of the Nevada-California border.
The annual hunt was opposed by some as inhumane, even before the animals suffered through the fires this summer.
“When we talk about bear hunting, it's not just going out and trying to find a bear to shoot,” said Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director of the environmental group Center for Biological Diversity.
“These hunters take packs of dogs, with GPS collars on them. They release the dogs, the dogs go chasing through the woods, scaring all sorts of wildlife, they find the bear and chase the bear up the tree,” he said.
“The hunter uses their GPS to go find their dogs and they shoot the bear out of the tree like shooting fish in a barrel. It's the farthest thing removed from a fair-chase hunt.”
Donnelly also said the time is right to discuss the role of the State Wildlife Commission is in the diverse, urban 21st-century Nevada.
“It's high time for us to start talking about reforming the state Wildlife Commission, which disproportionately represents white rural men, and does not effectively represent the broad diversity of the state of Nevada,” he said.
Pat Jackson, predator management biologist, Nevada Department of Wildlife ; Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director, Center for Biological Diversity