Nevadans for Responsible Wildlife Management was started by Mark Smith, Incline Village, and Don Molde, Reno to provide a social media forum for those who share our concerns about wildlife management practices and needed reforms in order to protect Nevada’s wildlife. Our current issues with wildlife management in Nevada include but are not limited to the following:
1. Trapping reform is urgently needed. While not possible to eliminate fur trapping in Nevada without legislative action or an initiative petition, the 2013 Nevada Legislature did give the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners an opportunity to shorten the statewide trap visitation requirement of 96 hours to something more reasonable. This was broadly ignored by the Commission.
On August 16, 2014, the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners voted to apply a “postage stamp” fix to SB 213. The Commission’s vote left the trap visitation interval at 96 hours, statewide, with two minor exceptions near Reno and Las Vegas. In doing so, the Commission disregarded new information from the Nevada Department of Wildlife showing thousands of animals, birds, domestic animals and household pets, so called “non-target” species, unintentionally caught, injured and killed by trappers over a decade. During lengthy public hearings, Nevada trappers “boycotted” the proceedings by refusing to submit maps, demanding no changes, and “threatening” to set traps closer to communities if faced with shorter visitation. They complained of possible personal inconveniences while claiming that animals and birds caught in traps would be comfortable.
The irony of this: Almost nobody traps on the fringes of Reno or in mid-town Las Vegas. Most traps are far from town.
2. Nevada’s black bear hunt, now about to enter its fourth year, remains a concern. The biology is murky to say the least. Everything from the actual number of bears on the Nevada side of the Sierra (a few hundred at most), to their origin (how many come from/go to California), to the wisdom of killing the very bears which are NOT active at the urban/bear interface in the Tahoe Basin is in question. The small number of bears killed each season (averaging 13 bears, at a cost to taxpayers of $15,000 each) makes Nevada’s bear hunt look like an elitist “boutique” event, utterly unnecessary, with the only justification being “hunter opportunity”, a concept that sounds adolescent at best, and without mention in Nevada statutes.
Furthermore, the question of using dogs to chase/tree bears is unpopular with many due to an apparent violation of the “fair chase” notion, particularly with the use of GPS collars on dogs which makes it easy for the hunter to find/kill the bear with minimal effort.
Public opinion…the non-hunting, non-trapping type….has been overwhelmingly opposed to the hunt. Yet, the Board of Wildlife Commissioners has cast a deaf ear to such opinions.
The 2013 Nevada Legislature also ordered the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners to do a comprehensive report regarding the first 3 years of the bear hunt for review by the 2015 legislature. Implicit within the bill was the assumption that the review would be performed and completed by the Commission prior to a decision to hold/not hold a 4th year hunt. Bear hunting season is now scheduled to start mid-September, the comprehensive report is not finished, and No Bear Hunt Nevada believes this year’s hunt should not occur until such time as the provisions of SB 82 have been met.
3. The management of non-human predators in Nevada – primarily coyotes, mountain lions and ravens -has been awful for many years. They have been “demonized” relentlessly by sportsmen, with efforts to create fear of the animals among the non-hunting public without any reasonable factual or biological basis for such claims.
Furthermore, to the extent that problems may occasionally exist, sportsmen and Wildlife Services (the “government trappers”) probably contribute to (if not create) such problems. Some examples:
a. Random killing of coyotes is well known to result in increased litter sizes and undisciplined juveniles. If left alone in a stable social structure, operating on a known home range, coyotes control their own population\ through interactions between the alpha male and female and can live peacefully with agricultural and ranching operations close by. Yet, the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDoW), the Board of Wildlife Commissioners, sportsmen, ranchers and the U.S. Wildlife Services disregards what is known, continues random killing, and promotes problems instead of fixing them. About 10,000 coyotes are killed in Nevada each year. No one knows the population, statewide, but Wildlife Services estimated about 100,000 when it updated its EIS a few years ago.
b. The importance of leaving resident male mountain lions alone to defend their territory and to preserve peace and tranquility among the resident lion population is well known. Research over the past decade or so by Washington State University researchers has eloquently shown that to be true. If the resident male is killed, lion infanticide increases, adult females are distressed, and undisciplined juvenile lions invade the now-empty territory with untoward results for the local agricultural and ranching operations. While this information is well-documented in the wildlife literature, it is utterly disregarded by NDoW, the Commissioner and Wildlife Services. Mountain lions are killed in Nevada by hunters using dogs to chase and tree the animal. The lion is simply shot out of the tree at the end of the chase. Nearly 200 mountain lions are killed each year, on average, in Nevada by hunters and Wildlife Services. Trappers contribute to lion mortality as well since we know lions have starved to death due to trap related foot and leg injuries rendering the animals unable to make a living.
c. Ravens are poisoned by Wildlife Services to the tune of about 5,000 per year, using poisoned eggs set out for the birds to ingest. Ravens are the “new coyote” of the West, blamed most recently for contributing to sage grouse decline. While some ravens do damage sage grouse nests, there are a host of other animals and birds that can as well. However, nobody but sportsmen contend that ravens are a primary cause of sage grouse concerns. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the BLM barely include ravens on their lists of issues that need to be addressed to assure a future for sage grouse….the most important being a viable sage brush community with good understory vegetation to provide the bird with what it needs for successful nesting and chick rearing. Nevada’s raven population has recently been estimated to be about 190,000 birds according to U.S. Geologic Survey. Interestingly, ravens…like certain other “predator” species, can “specialize”. It is known that some ravens prefer desert tortoise young while others ignore the species. Similarly, some ravens “specialize” in sage grouse nest predation but, being visually-oriented birds, that characteristic is diminished with adequate understory forbs and grasses in viable sage brush habitat.
4. The manner in which the Wildlife Commissioner is composed is not democratic. According to Nevada Revised Statutes, five of the nine commissioners appointed by the governor must be sportsmen. There must also be one rancher, one farmer, a member of the “general public’, and a “conservationist.” Typically, the rancher and farmer vote with the 5 sportsmen on issues of concern to us meaning that we are usually outvoted 7:2 or 8:1 before we even get started. This structure is decades old and an “historical accident” as is the idea that sportsmen via user fees (e.g license fees, tag fees) should “pay” for agency costs, it did have some logic to it then. Legislators thought it a good idea to use user fees to fund the agency thereby minimizing the amount of general fund money needed from the legislature. “Let sportsmen pay for their own activity.” Unfortunately, this concept has led to a sense of entitlement and ownership by some sportsmen, leaving the public out in the cold, even though NRS 501.100 clearly spells out public ownership of the state’s wildlife resource.
We are working on this imbalance. The 2013 Nevada Legislature passed a bill allowing county commissions to appoint a non-sportsman representative to the county advisory boards for wildlife (CAB). Previously, only sportsmen need apply. We will continue to work on moving this issue forward into modern times.
Some useful facts to keep in mind for perspective:
– Nevada’s population……about 2.7 million
– Number of resident hunting licenses sold annually in recent years…..about 48,000 (1.8%)
– Number of trapping licenses sold, annually, in recent years…..about 1,000 (+/-) (0.04%)
– Number of fishing licenses sold, annually, in recent years…..about 80,000 (+)
– Who shows up at Commission meetings…..mostly hunters and trappers; fisherman not much
– Where to find the Nevada Department of Wildlife and the Commission: ndow.org and facebook.com/NvDOW
– How to get involved…..go to Commission meetings, write your representatives and our Governor
Email Mark Smith or Don Molde to learn more: