My Turn: Are Nevada’s black bears really dangerous? |

My Turn: Are Nevada’s black bears really dangerous?

Mark E. Smith
Special to the Sun

LAKE TAHOE – There has been a lot of discussion about bears lately, and I think this spring and summer we are going to see a lot of bear activity; 2011 was a boom year for food due to the abundant snowfall, and this very mild winter will likely mean more cubs and adults survive the winter.

Given this, it’s important that we better understand bears and the threat they might pose. One theme I often hear from locals and visitors alike, and a theme fueled by public comments from Nevada Department of Wildlife officials, is how dangerous bears are.

While Nevada’s black bears are dangerous in theory, that danger rarely manifests. To make this point, I’ll simply cite some statistics.

There has never been either a documented bear attack nor a bear-related fatality in the history of the state of Nevada. Nationwide, you are 2.9 million times more likely to be killed by anything other than a black bear. You are 38,000 times more likely to die in an auto accident. In 2010, more people were killed in California by deer than by bears. You are 1,400 times more likely to be accidentally killed by a firearm than by a black bear. In 2009, twice as many people where killed in the US by black bear hunters as by black bears. In 2010, more Nevadans were shot to death by hunters than have been killed by Nevada black bears in the last 100 years.

You are 437 times more likely to win the mega-multi-million lottery and 90,000 times more likely to be deliberately murdered by another human being than you are to be killed by a black bear. And you are 143 times more likely to be killed (not just bitten – but killed) by your neighbor’s dog. That means that each time a black bear kills a human being in the US, 143 people have died from dog attacks.

Given these statistics, why does NDOW continue with the myth that our bears are dangerous and must be killed? Follow the money – there is zero funding for non-lethal bear management but there is endless money for “public safety” initiatives. I’ll leave it to readers to check the accuracy of these statistics, but I believe that the more you dig the more likely you’ll come to the same conclusion I have: Any claims that Nevada’s bears must killed for public safety is nonsense, and the creating of this perceived danger is nothing more than a money grab by one of our state agencies.

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– Mark E. Smith is an Incline Village resident and spokesperson for the Facebook group Lake Tahoe Wall of Shame.