by JERI CHADWELL
The Assembly has passed a bill that will require the Department of Wildlife to conduct a three-year scientific study to determine if a healthy population of black bears can be sustained if Nevadans are allowed to continue hunting the animals.
The first black bear hunting season in Nevada ran from August through December of 2011. A total of 45 tags were issued for that season and 14 bears were taken. During the 2012 season, another 45 tags were issued and 11 bears were taken.
SB82 was originally aimed at banning bear hunting indefinitely but has since been amended several times. Only two Assembly members spoke prior to the vote during Tuesday’s Assembly Floor Session.
Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen voiced his opinions in opposition to the bill, saying that the Board of Wildlife Commissioners and NDOW have already run scientific studies of Nevada’s black bear populations and that the numbers used in past hunts were based upon those findings.
“Trying to appease the people who are opposed to this hunt is pretty much impossible,” Hansen said. “They will never be happy, so we need to recognize that. Close this wound that keeps being reopened. Let the Department of Wildlife and the Board of Wildlife Commissioners do what they do.”
Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton spoke in favor of SB82. Carlton was the chair of the Assembly Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining during the 2011 session and said that black bear hunting was a major concern then as well. According to Carlton, she and her fellow committee members were hesitant to act on the issue of bear hunts in 2011 because they didn’t believe they had enough scientific data to make an informed decision on the matter. Carlton expressed her belief that the study resulting from SB82 will give legislators the information they need to decide if black bear hunts should be permitted in Nevada.
“This bill will have the Board of Wildlife Commissioners go back, look at what has happened since they’ve instituted the hunt and be able to have actual facts and figures so that we can have a rational discussion and hopefully be able to set some of the passions around this issue aside,” Carlton said.
The final vote on the measure was 32-7 in favor of passage.
[This article was updated on 5.26.2013 for accuracy. The article incorrectly stated that SB82 called for the suspension of hunting. The bill calls for the studying of bear hunting, not the suspension of hunting during the study.]