RENO — The long-term viability of Nevada’s black bear population “appears favorable,” a panel reviewing the state’s controversial bear hunt has been told.
Carl Lackey, a bear biologist for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said the bruin population has increased from roughly 450 in 2011 to more than 500 now.
Over the same period, 39 bears have been killed by hunters in Nevada. The annual limit has been set at 20 bears but that has never been reached.
The special Nevada wildlife commission panel met Friday to review the first three years of the bear hunt and plans to meet again on Feb. 21.
The review of the hunt was required under legislation passed by the 2013 Legislature.
Wildlife department spokesman Chris Healy said the panel will make recommendations about the hunt to the wildlife commission, which is moving ahead with plans to continue it.
The committee can either recommend changing rules governing the hunt or leave them alone, Healy said, but the wildlife commission has the ultimate say.
Department staff is recommending the hunt go forward under the same rules as last year.
Plans call for the wildlife commission to set dates for the hunting season in early February and to set a quota in May for the number of bears that can be killed.
Hunting seasons and quotas for other big-game wildlife will be considered at the same time.
Friday’s meeting began with a report from Lackey on how the bear hunt has gone so far and how it fits into the department’s overall bear management plan.
Wildlife Commissioner Jack Robb of Reno, a member of the bear committee, told the Reno Gazette-Journal that a limited hunt is likely justified as long as Nevada’s bear population is stable and growing.
“From all indications, we do have a healthy bear population in the state of Nevada,” Robb said, adding the department uses a science-based approach to manage Nevada’s wildlife.
But committee member Kathryn Bricker, executive director of NoBearHuntNV, criticized the wildlife commission for supporting the hunt despite widespread opposition by the public.
“The larger question in all this is should we have a hunt, and that question has been avoided,” she told the Gazette-Journal, adding the commission continues to bend to the desires of hunters.
Bricker called for a ban on the use of dogs by bear hunters, a proposal rejected by commissioners last year.