Wildlife calls 'beardens' Nevada

Nevada wildlife officials came to Douglas County commissioners seeking $50,000 to help defray costs.

A dramatic increase in local bear complaints is draining Nevada Department of Wildlife's resources and budget, leading to a call for more funding, more ordinances requiring bear-proof garbage cans and possibly, a bear hunt.

Bears have been reported throughout Carson Valley, including Genoa, Minden and Gardnerville.

Because the issue was not on the county's agenda last Thursday, it was reset for later. The state appeared before Washoe County commissioners on Tuesday with a similar request.

"In a normal summer, we might get 100 to 150 calls a month," said wildlife department spokesman Chris Healy. "This year we've received well over 200 calls each in June and July and almost 400 in August, and I don't think we've seen the worst of it.

"I've been here 22 years and I've never seen anything like this. It's constant," he said.

Costs are expected to increase by 50 percent in 2007, to about $167,000 compared to last year's budget of $111,577, according to information from the Department of Wildlife.

"Right now, we're spending sportsman's dollars to manage nuisance wildlife," Healy said. "Since the problem centers around the control and regulation of garbage, it would be nice if the counties where the problem is centered would contribute something. It's not the responsibility of the hunters. It's the responsibility of those who live in the area."

A limited bear hunt in the Sweetwater and Pine Nut ranges is also being considered, that money to be used for management of bear populations in urban areas where they survive on garbage left in cans.

"Bears are a huntable species. There's just no season open," Healy said. "Having a bear hunt won't solve the garbage problem and humans not doing a good job of protecting wildlife in Tahoe Basin.

"We feel it's our responsibility to push forward with proposals to make humans accountable," he said.

Right now, the budget is supported by hunting license fees and Federal grants, but it's a short-term solution for a burgeoning problem. Without funding, responses will have to be reduced significantly, Wildlife officials said.

"Human safety concerns continue to increase and the volume of (bear) calls has outstripped our ability to respond," said Russ Mason, game chief for the Department of Wildlife. "Someone is going to get killed unless nuisance black bears are more managed."

The Governor and Legislature are considering augmenting the budget with about $40,000 from contingency funding for a biologist, dispatch employee, rental truck and cell phone to help get through this year's bear season, Wildlife officials said.

Wildlife is also requesting that Washoe and Douglas counties convene a work group to consider county ordinances requiring bear-proof containers for garbage, prohibiting the feeding of bears or other wildlife except song birds, and effective strategies for enforcement.

Bears start increasing their calorie intake in the fall, but natural food sources have dried up after this year's drought. The feeding probably won't slow down until the area receives a good cover of snow in late November or early December but if the bears don't get that, they may not go to sleep at all this season, Healy said.

Nevada Department of Wildlife Director Kenneth Mayer and Chief Russ Mason will give a presentation on local problems and how to address them at a meeting of the Washoe County Board of Commissioners Tuesday.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.


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