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State Funding Sought For Problem Bears

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State Funding Sought For Problem Bears

Postby SteveB » Sun Mar 02, 2008 10:58 am

Posted: 3/2/2008

Nevada wildlife officials plan to ask the Legislature for more money after a year of record-numbers of problems with nuisance bears.

What has developed into a consistent challenge in recent years demands a fiscal commitment from the state, said top officers from the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

"Ultimately, we need the dollars," said Russ Mason, state game division chief. "We need a stable funding source."

The number of so-called "urban bears" raiding trash cans and breaking into homes has increased steadily, particularly at Lake Tahoe, in the past decade, said Carl Lackey, a state wildlife biologist and bear expert.

Last year was the worst across the Reno-Tahoe region, with wildlife officials responding to up to 1,500 calls involving 120 different bears, Lackey said.

Drought conditions dried up the berry bushes that black bears normally depend upon for food, and this was largely responsible for the deluge of bear conflicts in 2007. What is shaping up to be a much wetter 2008 should reduce the scope of the problem during the coming spring, summer and fall, Mason said.

But regardless of climatic influences, garbage-raiding bears are posing a chronic and persistent challenge that costs the department of wildlife about $150,000 per year.

That money is being funneled from other wildlife programs such as habitat restoration and efforts benefitting Nevada's mule deer, elk, pronghorn and sage grouse, among others, Mason said. Those funds come from hunting license fees and federal support that really shouldn't be spent to combat nuisance bears, he said.

"We are using funds that would probably be more appropriately spent in other areas," Mason said. "We really don't have a clear source of funding to support that (bear) program."

No specific legislative proposal has been prepared but the department will likely pursue a bill, probably in cooperation with Washoe and Douglas counties and Carson City, local jurisdictions where nuisance bears pose the greatest danger, Mason said.

"We do intend to go forward with this," he said.

Area lawmakers contacted agreed the growing problem of nuisance bears and the funding needed to deal with them needs exploration.

"I think we should find some way to help them out," Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said.

With growth and development constantly pushing new homes farther into wildlife habitat, greater conflicts with bears and other wildlife result, Bobzien said.

"Is it fair to keep sportsmen on the hook for that increased workload? I don't think it is," Bobzien said. "It's certainly something we're going to have to talk about."

State Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said "it doesn't make any sense" not to have a stable funding source to deal with a problem that is clearly worsening.

"I think we need to get behind them," he said.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who owned a horse that was killed by a bear last summer, said the state's financial difficulties could make for an "uphill battle" in funding the bear program.

"I think it's a discussion we need to have," Settelmeyer said.

Settelmeyer said he doesn't expect problems associated with bears and humans to ease significantly in the years ahead.

"We're seeing a lot more bears in that urban interface," Settelmeyer said. "We have far more than the habitat can support on its own."

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Re: State Funding Sought For Problem Bears

Postby hikerduane » Sun Mar 02, 2008 12:10 pm

OK. See if my computer will stay here for a minute so I can post a reply. With Nevada's budget problems, I don't see the governor allowing any money for bear problems, what with the schools even getting their budgets cut. In Carson City, where there is little growth, the bears are hitting the west side of town and coming into the older part of town which is the west side. I think the bears are being pushed out of the mountains and are foraging in town. Lake Tahoe area, lack of food plus all that good smelling garbage ignorant folks leaving garbage around who only come up on weekends. The bears are getting more aggressive too, what was it, two incidents where law enforcement had to shoot a bear that was in a house because it charged the officer. One group accused the officer of not giving the bear an escape route, but that was found to not be true if I remember right.

Maybe allow a few more bears to be taken in the area around Lake Tahoe, the hunters would pay then, not tax payers. Even where I live here north of Truckee 90 minutes, I would love to see the county buy a truckload of bear resistant garbage cans and sell them at cost to folks to stop problems before they get worse. My County Supervisor tasked me with writing up a proposal over a year ago after I mentioned bear resistant garbage cans, but I am terrible at writing, so I haven't even started that. Just like bear resistant food canisters for bpers, I can see this coming, more bear encounters. My garbage can got knocked off once last summer and some of my neighbors have been hit at least once too.
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