In Jim Ornellas’ guest column last month (Dec. 4, 2013) he argued that black bears don’t belong in Nevada, that they are entirely exotic and thus it’s ok to hunt them to extinction. The experts believe differently. Some examples:
The NV Dept of Wildlife has a bear management policy which claims that bears once roamed Nevada’s side of the Sierra, the Western hills and the Ruby mountains. From that, they’ve set goals to repopulate that historic range because of the importance to of large predators to the entire ecosystem. That’s based on research of population data and historic journals, not casual conjecture.
A 2012-13 study jointly completed by the Wildlife Conservation Society and NDoW found that, as far back as 1849, Nevada had a robust black bear population. However, by the 1930s that population had been decimated by poaching, clear cutting and mining. Again, this is based on a study of the evidence.
Both the Washoe and Pyramid Lake Paiute tribes have strong customs and lore related to black bears, which would be unlikely if bears did not have a historic role in Nevada’s culture. That’s why every tribe in Nevada has passed resolutions opposing the bear hunt.
Much of Nevada’s bear country borders prime bear habitat on the California side. NDoW has argued repeatedly that the two bear populations are directly linked and thus one responds to the other. It’s not logical that one side of the artificial border, with similar habitat on both sides, would have a large bear population, as California has always supported, and the other would have none. There’s also no evidence to support this conclusion.
In short, every serious study of this topic has shown Mr. Ornellas’ supposition to be false. Bears have long been part of Nevada’s wildlife heritage and cultural tradition.