Nevada Department of Wildlife staff has been directed to draft a regulation establishing a spring and fall hunt by state wildlife commissioners.
Commission Chairman Scott Raine said the nine-member panel plans to take final action on the regulation at its Dec. 3-4 meeting in Reno. The tag quota and length of seasons would be set early next year.
Commissioners said Nevada is the only Western state without a bear hunt, and the state's bruin population is stable enough to allow for a limited one.
"Wildlife should be wild and it (hunt) will keep bears wild," Raine said, adding nearly all of the wildlife commission's county advisory boards backed the action.
Nevada is home to 200 to 300 bears along the eastern Sierra, with most in the Carson Range on Lake Tahoe's east shore. There also are an unknown number of bears in the Wassuk and Sweetwater ranges to the south.
Critics disputed some supporters' contention that the hunt would reduce human-bear conflicts that often lead to bears having to be destroyed. They also questioned the safety of hunts around Lake Tahoe.
"My main concern is Lake Tahoe is a bad place to have a bear hunt," said Don Molde, a former board member of the Defenders of Wildlife and a member of the Humane Society of the United States. "It's congested and some bystander could be injured."
Public opinion on the hunt is running "roughly 50-50" in nearly 100 e-mails submitted to the wildlife department's website, agency spokesman Chris Healy said.
Raine insisted public opinion among Nevadans was overwhelmingly in favor of the hunt.
"It's very much people from Nevada, especially those in the Carson City area, are almost unanimously for it," he said. "We get some people from California, quite a bit, and they're against it."
Carl Lackey, a biologist with the wildlife department, has said the state's bear population would support a small hunt. While Nevada has the lowest black bear population in the West, it has been growing at a rate of 16 percent a year, he said.