RENO - Hunters are nearing the end of Nevada's first bear hunt.
Nevada Department of Wildlife spokesman Chris Healy said while the season is scheduled to close Dec. 31, it will end prematurely if one more female bear is killed.
Since the season opened Aug. 20, hunters have killed 12 black bears - five females and seven males. State wildlife commissioners set a limit of 20 bears that can be killed, and of those, no more than six can be female.
The season will end before Dec. 31 if either of those thresholds is met.
"Should the end come this weekend, NDOW will get the word out as fast as possible so hunters and the public will know that the end of the hunt has occurred," Healy said.
Before they go into the field, hunters are required to call a hotline number for updated information on whether hunting is still allowed. The department also plans to notify hunters with unfilled tags by letters and phone calls.
Healy said not one of the bears killed so far has come from the Lake Tahoe Basin, where the strongest opposition to the hunt was voiced.
The group NoBearHuntNV.org complained that hunting at Tahoe was a public safety issue for hikers and others.
At a mandatory indoctrination meeting before the hunt, wildlife officials suggested that all 41 tag holders stay away from the Tahoe basin to avoid potential conflicts during warmer months.
"We told them, 'No hunters in Nevada have ever had a spotlight shining on them like you guys. Don't do anything stupid."' Healy said. "Hunters are staying away from the Tahoe Basin, for the most part."
But that could change with the advent of cold, snowy weather at Tahoe, which has chased hikers and mountain bikers away from the backcountry.
"Maybe some hunters will go there now that the backcountry hikers are gone," Healy said.
Nevada's black bears, with an estimated population between 200 and 300, are mainly located in the Carson Range around Lake Tahoe. Bears are also found in and around the Pine Nut, Sweetwater and Wassuk mountains east and southeast of Tahoe.