Jim Bagwell: Bear hunt may be best solution

As we grow as a state, we populate land that we see as the next best area for homes. Wildlife is the one displaced as we move into their natural living areas.

In the 1950s and early '60s I saw huge herds of deer migrate from the Sierra through the East Walker River drainage to Truman Meadows on the northwest slopes of Boundary Peak below Montgomery Pass. That migration has all but disappeared as man changed the deer's habitat and the deer couldn't adapt. We took away their access to their winter range.

Now we are facing another challenge. Bears in the Lake Tahoe area and east slopes of the Sierra have become a serious nuisance. The culprit: man and his garbage. Heck, they do not even have to hibernate, what with a gourmet meal waiting at the end of every driveway.

I have knowledge of bears semi-hibernating under porches at Lake Tahoe during the winter. They are very dangerous in that condition. They also grow much larger when they eat human food. Years when nature would cull the population don't exist anymore.

Nevada Department of Wildlife officials have devoted many hours of time capturing and relocating these problem bears. They just become a problem somewhere else. Bears released near Sweetwater Summit become a problem for ranchers, campers and other recreationists. A few years ago a bear relocated to Mt. Grant became a problem for a Walker Lake resident when the bear tried to get to food in the house, resulting in disaster for the bear. Remember, they are addicted to human food and somewhat socialized to humans. We have trained them to abandon their natural habits and fears.

Unfortunately, suitable habitat is limited and, as we have with the wild horse, we have reached a point that the population needs to be reduced. I have read the NDOW proposal for a limited hunt. The proposal is an honest attempt to find a suitable solution.

Other states have bear hunts, and this is probably the best solution at this time. I hate to use money as an excuse, but the state is broke. What other solution works without huge expenditures?

NDOW has limited the hunt to 20 bears killed, and no more than six females. Sows with cubs would not be killed. Dogs would be allowed with the intent of treeing the bear. NDOW will closely monitor the hunt.

It would be my hope that hunting pressure and use of dogs would cause the bears to retreat deep into the Sierra. With the hunt in late fall and early winter, the bear might find itself pushed far enough away from man that hibernation would be a necessity.

We have got to reduce conflict prior to something serious happening. If you came home to a bear in your kitchen, how would you react?

• Jim Bagwell of Carson City is a Vietnam veteran and graduate of the FBI National Academy who worked 31 years in law enforcement. He and his wife Lori own Charley's Grilled Subs.

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