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Yogi  Beware!
Yogi Beware!

AIR DATE: September 20, 2010

Yogi, beware! Nevada may have a bear hunting season for the first time in its history. There are 200-300 bears in Nevada - the smallest bear population in the West. Hunt opponents say the bear population should be protected. But hunt supporters say they're seeing more bears in town, and bears need to be scared away. Should Nevada bears be protected or hunted? The wildlife commission chairman and a local wildlife advocate debate the issue.

Scott Raine, Chair, Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners
Don Molde, former board member, Defenders of Wildlife
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    I live in the northeast. We have a huge bear population and those bears are trickling down into towns that have been in existence for well over 100 years. How is that "encroaching"? When the bear population explodes, the bears intrude on existing human populations. We are nearly overrun here now. The bears do become aggressive , the bears do damage property. This home was built 65 years ago, we are 1/10 of a mile off of a very busy parkway, yet bears come into our backyard now and destroy things. Twenty years ago - no bears. Ten years ago - a rare bear. Now, bears are common, about once a week.
    AndreSep 17, 2011 22:02:41 PM
    Well said! Hunting is definitely not a panacea. If used, it should be employed as one part of a multi-faceted management plan. Urban encroachment issues are certainly the real crux of this problem. Until human encroachment is addressed for the area, everything else will be the equivalent of treating the symptom instead of the disease. Unfortunately, that is a huge undertaking and sometimes symptoms need to be kept in check while a decent approach for the disease is identified. The judicious release of bear tags may alleviate some of the immediate pressure while buying time (and providing funds) for the development of a more comprehensive strategy. Of course, that would only help if population pressures were, in fact, behind the bear wanderings. Population estimates and carrying capacity formulas may provide a preliminary indication if this is likely to be the case. Of course, well designed studies would be essential to the development/evaluation of the overall plan.
    SarahSep 14, 2010 21:56:59 PM
    As both a avid hunter and conservationist I agree with both points of view. In my opinion the number 1 threat to wildlife is URBAN SPRAWL. People no longer venture but live permanentley in places that were previously inhabited by only wildlife. To Sarah's point hunting bears in places like Alaska, Montana and Idaho has helped make them more weiry of man. I dont believe anything bad could result form hunting bears in a controlled manner. Hunting does raise money for conservation and can help depleate larger consentrations of bears, potentially limiting the range/consumption of resources required by individual bears and lessen the need to interact with human populated areas. However the bottom line remains; If you dont like bears, don't venture into their backyard.
    RyanSep 14, 2010 21:41:54 PM
    Yes, I agree (as a biologist myself) that there is a theoretically quantifiable estimate of carrying capactiy of a foraging population within a natural environment. However, if we look at the shifting mosaic of the "urban interface", it really is not the bears that are encroaching on the urban environment so much as the urban environment encroaching on the bears. These are very generalist, opportunistic foragers, and as more and more people embed their homes within a wildland mosaic, the bears can quite easily switch their foraging between natural resources and urban resources without actually shifting their home ranges or foraging strategies appreciably. I too am not against hunting. But we should try to be realistic about the justification and consequences underlying wildlife control arguments. Somebody should ask: in a finite space such as the Tahoe Basin, with expanding wildland/urban interfaces, can any controlled size of the bear population be expected to halt the use of urban resources by foraging bears? One would need to demonstrate that those bears using such resources are significantly malnourished or otherwise stressed relative to bears that do not use those resources
    BrettSep 14, 2010 13:34:34 PM
    On a slightly different vein: I balk at the vilification of the hunter segment of our population and am bothered by their dismissal through caricatures such as the one painted by Mr. Molde in this interview. Though hunting may not be for everyone, the hunters with whom I am acquainted are among the most respectful and wisest of stewards. In the off season many of them devote much more time/funding to conservation than the average citizen realizes.
    Sarah - MS, Natural Resources & Environ. Mgmnt.Sep 14, 2010 12:37:35 PM
    I am not a hunter, but hunting is an excellent means of population control. Overpopulation is often the root of urban wildlife encroachment. In this case, the bear population must be kept below the carrying capacity of the natural habitat (as determined by wildlife biologists). If numbers are not kept in check, food becomes scarce, disease and hunger rise, and venturesome individuals look for greener pastures in the urban environment. Once an individual bear crosses the urban threshold, keeping them out becomes an enormous drain on government resources. By issuing a controlled number of tags to hunters, wildlife managers can keep the population at sustainable levels. Revenue generated from the sale of licenses, ammunition and excise taxes, etc fuels the majority of the wildlife management & habitat conservation in our nation. All of this comes while avoiding the expense in funds and manpower that government (and environmental groups) would otherwise have to shoulder. Many other benefits come from the support of a sportsman culture  such as the sense of stewardship and responsibility that it most often engenders in a multigenerational context.
    Sarah - MS, Natural Resources & Environ. Mgmnt.Sep 14, 2010 12:34:31 PM
    A bit of clarification is needed here please. How does a bear hunt ensure that the "problem bears" (the primary justification being used) are being preferentially hunted unless the hunters are required to limit their hunt to the "urban interface"...that is, basically hunting around the backyards and garbage bins being exploited by a subset of the bear population?
    BrettSep 14, 2010 10:02:55 AM
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