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October 14, 2010

Nevada Has Black Bears in Its Sights

  • Nevada's proposed trophy hunt could leave young cubs to starve. iStockphoto

The sagebrush state's black bears might soon find themselves under the gun for the first time since Nevada became a state in 1864.

The Nevada Wildlife Commission has proposed a six-month bear hunting season to begin in late spring, when cubs are still fully dependent on their mothers' milk and protection for survival.

Because it is impossible to distinguish mother bears from bears without offspring, it is likely that a spring hunt would result in cubs slowly starving to death.

The Commission also proposed allowing hunters to pursue bears with packs of dogs, who torment bears, often chasing them for miles. Once the bear is cornered or treed, the hunter arrives to shoot the bear down at nearly point-blank range.

Nevada's tiny population of bears may consist of only 150 animals. The black bear population has fluctuated little in the past decade, and minimal research has been done on the impact a trophy hunt might have on it. Conflicts with bears are low in Nevada, particularly in the spring, when the Commission plans to conduct the portion of the hunt designed to reduce conflicts.

Complaints about bears actually declined in both 2008 and 2009.

Hunting does not reduce conflicts with bears because it fails to target the so-called "problem" bears who live near urban and suburban areas. Instead, hunters target large males in wilderness areas who would make impressive trophies.

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