“The people at Lake Tahoe are more afraid of the bear hunters than they are the bears,” said Christine Schwamberger, a lawyer for NoBearHuntNV.org who filed the lawsuit Tuesday in district court in Carson City.
“There has never been a fatal bear attack in Nevada but we will submit reports of bear hunting accidents that occur all the time across the country,” she said Wednesday.
The suit against the state and the Nevada Wildlife Commission Board of Directors seeks an emergency injunction that would put off any bear hunting season at least for another year.
The commission has issued 45 tags for the season to run Aug. 20-Dec. 31. However, the hunt is limited to 20 total bears — six females — and will stop when that limit is reached.
State wildlife biologists estimate there are an estimated 200 to 300 adult black bears in the Carson Range around the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, with additional bears in ranges to the south. They said Nevada’s bear population is growing at a rate of about 16 percent annually.
On a 7-1 vote in May, the commission refused to hear a formal administrative appeal from NoBearHuntNV.org. Commission Chairman Scott Raine of Eureka said people have strong feelings on both sides of the issue, but that the hunt “clearly justified on the biological end of it.”
Among other things, the lawsuit contends the commission illegally violated state administrative procedures due to insufficient noticing of a December public hearing. It also says the panel failed to establish a specific “need” for the hunt, as required by state law, and failed to adequately assess the potential for harm to the local tourism-based economy.
“The law says they must have a management reason before they can implement a hunting season. They can’t just say, we’ve got enough bears to hunt so let’s hunt them,” Schwamberger said. “They just want to hunt bears, period. They want to trophy hunt.”
Some backers of the hunt said it would help rid the Tahoe area of nuisance bears that rummage through trash cans and sometimes break into homes in search of food.
“But NDOW’s own biologists and publications and all academic studies specifically state that a hunt will do nothing to cure the nuisance bear problem,” Schwamberger said in a recent interview. “That is strictly a function of bear-proof trash containers.”
“The real issue is that bear habitat is being degraded and there’s housing construction taking place everywhere so the bears are being forced into the urban areas for food. What the wildlife commission should be doing is addressing bear habitat.”
NDOW spokesman Chris Healy said the agency was moving forward with plans for the hunt to begin on Aug. 20 until someone tells them otherwise. He referred questions about the lawsuit to the state attorney general’s office, which is defending the department in the case.
Bryan Stockton, the senior deputy attorney general representing NDOW, did not immediately return a telephone call or email from The Associated Press seeking comment.