Bear hunting season rules in the works
Nevada wildlife officials are drafting regulations to take wolves off the list of game mammals and establish a bear hunting season.
Nevada Wildlife commissioners voted to reclassify wolves at their Sept. 24-25 meeting in Las Vegas. Wolves were first classified as a game mammal in August 2008. Commissioners also directed the Department of Wildlife to petition the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to delist wolves in Nevada as they were never established in Nevada.
Commissioners approved proposals to create black bear and non-trophy bull elk hunting seasons, reclassify mountain lions, a proposed regulation to prohibit a person from interfering with the use of a guzzler, and an update on the status of the Lake Mead Fish Hatchery and proposed changes to the Colorado River fish stocking program.
During recent years, residents along the Sierra front in northwestern Nevada have seen a significant increase in human-bear interactions. While this increase is due in part to human development and behavior, another contributing factor is the black bear population itself.
“Nevada’s bear population should not be viewed as an isolated population due to the fact that it is part of the contiguous Sierra Nevada population in California,” bear expert and state wildlife biologist Carl Lackey said. “That population is estimated to be in the thousands.”
Current estimates place Nevada’s bear population along the Sierra front at between 200 and 300 animals. Lackey, who spends much of his time dealing with bear-related problems, believes this number is conservative.
According to his data, the Sierra front bear population is growing at an annual estimated rate of about 16 percent. The state’s black bear management plan identifies the agency’s management objective as maintaining “well-distributed, viable black bear populations within suitable habitat throughout their native range in Nevada.”
After a lengthy discussion, the commission voted 8-0 in favor of asking the staff to draft regulations for a spring bear hunt that would consist of a month-long any-legal-weapon season followed by a week-long archery season. Included in the motion was language requiring successful tag applicants to complete a bear education course similar to that required for bighorn sheep. A bear tag would cost $100, and the use of bait or hounds would be prohibited during the spring bear season.
A subsequent motion and vote added a fall bear hunt to the regulation request. Parameters would be similar to those of the spring hunt but the use of hounds would be permitted during the fall season. The commission decision also calls for the bear hunt to be reevaluated after the first year. A draft regulation will be considered at the December commission meeting in Reno.
Another of Nevada’s game animals whose population is growing is the Rocky Mountain elk. While that has resulted in increased hunting opportunity, there are some hunters who are concerned that there are too many bulls in the state’s elk herds. Cory Lytle, of the Lincoln County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife, proposed the creation of a non-trophy bull elk season to reduce the bull-cow ratio. A non-trophy bull would be defined as “a bull with five points or fewer on at least one side of its antlers. This includes damaged or broken antlers.”
The commission voted 7-1 in favor of this proposal and directed staff to draft the necessary regulations to create a non-trophy bull elk hunt that will be in place by the 2011 big game tag draw.
Also considered by the commission was a proposal to change the current classification of mountain lions from that of a game mammal to that of a furbearer or unprotected species. Commission members voted to table the discussion with no action taken.
In other action the commission voted to approve Commission General Regulation Number 389, which prohibits a person from interfering with the use of a guzzler or other water development. A guzzler is a manmade device designed to catch and store rainwater for the benefit of wildlife. This regulation must still be approved by the legislature.
Also heard by the commission was a status update on the Lake Mead Fish Hatchery by Fisheries Staff Specialist Caroline Cherry. The facility has been held in a non-operational mode, with no trout production, since shortly after the discovery of quagga mussels in the lower Colorado River system in Jan. 2007. Another emerging factor that led to the suspension of trout production was high water temperatures associated with low water levels in Lake Mead due to an unprecedented 11-year drought in the Colorado River system. This closure came just one year after the hatchery reopened following a two-year, $17 million renovation project.
In order to keep up trout production in southern Nevada, the agency began searching for a quagga-free source of water at the hatchery that is cold enough for trout rearing. In the meantime, NDOW entered into a cooperative agreement with the Willow Beach National Fish Hatchery on Lake Mohave. That, Cherry explained, allowed the wildlife agency to rear approximately 50,000 trout per year in net pens at the federal facility. These fish have been released exclusively in Lake Mead and Lake Mohave. Changes are now in the wind, however, as the cooperative agreement comes to an end in March 2011.
In addition to the net pen operation at Willow Beach, NDOW increased trout production at its Mason Valley Fish Hatchery to make up for the loss of production at the Lake Mead facility. This has allowed NDOW to continue trout plants at the Southern Nevada urban ponds, but the facility cannot produce enough trout to continue planting fish in Lake Mead and Lake Mohave, said Cherry. Thus, the 2010-2011 stocking season will be the last for those waters.
“Starting in the fall 2011, we will no longer be stocking Lake Mead and Lake Mohave,” she said.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW’s wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen’s license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license.
For more information, visit http://www.ndow.org.