Nevada wildlife official defends bear policies amid Tahoe criticism
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STATELINE, Nev. — Scroll down the Tahoe BEAR League’s Facebook thread and it probably won’t take long before you find criticisms and even accusations directed toward the Nevada Department of Wildlife and their bear management strategy.
Ask BEAR League advocacy group executive director Ann Bryant, and she’ll tell it to you bluntly.
“We don’t appreciate NDOW’s policy at all. It sets up bears to fail,” she said in a recent interview with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, going so far as to call their policies “deplorable.”
Bryant suggested the wildlife department picks up problem bears and essentially drops them in hunting zones to be killed.
It’s an accusation NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said is unwarranted.
“That criticism doesn’t hold a lot of water if you look at the facts,” he said. “On-site releases are actually preferable to us. That’s just a fantasy. We don’t move the bears around so they can be hunted.”
He added that what they consider on-site release can span a large distance, but still be within the bear’s home territory.
Healy pointed toward the organization’s records to reinforce his argument.
According to NDOW’s current 2015 numbers, of 12 bears taken by hunters, only two had been previously tagged by the wildlife department.
The department’s 2014 records do show a larger percentage of tagged bears hunted. The organization’s statistics showed hunters claimed 18 bears, nine of which had previously been tagged.
Healy pointed out, however, that not all tagged bears are problem bears. NDOW also tags bears they catch and release for research purposes.
Nevada annually caps bear hunting permits at 45, but closes the hunt season when 20 bears are taken.
Bryant said the BEAR League believes the number of bears hit by cars should be considered when allowing hunting.
Healy acknowledged a high number of bears are hit and killed by cars and considers that statistic a more significant concern.
“The most dangerous thing to a bear is being hit and killed by a car,” he said.
Looking further into NDOW’s numbers, the department handled a total of 140 bears in 2014. Of those, 18 were hunted, 18 killed by cars, one was killed for public safety and two for depredation — killing livestock.
Another three were found deceased from undetermined causes. Healy said, in those unknown circumstances, they often suspect causes of death but do not have enough evidence.
Their numbers so far this year also show 19 bears killed by cars, seven for public safety, 12 hunted and five died of unknown causes. A total of 114 bears have been handled by NDOW as of Friday, Nov 13.
“We do our best to keep the bears alive and wild,” Healy said, pointing to the number they handle successfully. “When we have to euthanize a bear, it’s not the first thought we have. We do all we can.”
He pointed to trash management as the larger problem.
“We’re not the garbage people,” he said. “That’s where the problem is.”
Bryant agreed that trash management is a major concern and said more public education is necessary, which she believes NDOW could do a better job of currently.
“People need to understand what to do,” Bryant said. “We just think they (NDOW) overreact and promote fear.”
The South Lake Tahoe Basin Waste Management Joint Powers Authority is currently considering policy revisions.