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targeted in Nevada to protect the deer population
May 22, 2010 Reno Gazette Journal
RENO (AP) — Wildlife advocates and hunters are up in arms
over a state board’s decision to step up the killing of
mountain lions and coyotes to help increase the deer
Critics say the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners is
placing too much emphasis on predator control and ignoring
the recommendations of staff biologists and county advisory
boards. They say loss of critical habitat to development and
wildfires should be given more attention.
The board voted May 15 to spend $432,000 for predator
control with funds from a Nevada Department of Wildlife
trust fund that had been mostly used for habitat improvement
and studies until last year.
Tim Dunbar, executive director of the Mountain Lion
Foundation based in Sacramento, Calif., said he’s unaware
of any other state that is making such an aggressive push to
kill predators to help deer.
“I don’t see where any decision they have made is based
on science. It’s based on emotions and responding to a few
interests,” Dunbar said, adding habitat loss is the main
factor for declining deer herds.
Gil Yanuck, chairman of the wildlife commission’s Carson
City advisory board, said most hunters oppose the action and
support a combination of techniques to help deer herds.
“I think there’s more to improving things for deer than
shooting every mountain lion and coyote,” said Yanuck, a
deer and elk hunter. “I think we need to think more about
the impacts of urbanization ... and provide better habitat.”
The state’s deer population fell from 240,000 in 1988 to
107,000 this year, while its current lion population ranges
from 1,500 to 3,000, according to the wildlife department.
Despite efforts to eradicate coyotes, they’re as plentiful
as ever, the agency says.
Nevada allows lion hunts, each year issuing a quota of lion
tags that a hunter can obtain. The current quota is 306 tags
a season. A tag is not required to hunt a coyote because
they’re considered an “unprotected” species.
Wildlife Commissioner Scott Raine of Eureka said studies
show that lions eat roughly one deer a week and are a major
factor for declining deer herds.
He said habitat improvement projects take many years before
they benefit wildlife, while thinning predators can help
deer and bighorn sheep sooner.
“Predation control is one very small aspect of wildlife
management but it’s an important aspect of it,” Raine
said. “If it’s ignored we’ll have a large problem with
our game populations.”
The new effort also will target ravens that pose a threat to
sage grouse, a bird whose listing as an endangered or
threatened species would restrict mining, ranching and other
activities on public land across the West, he added.
“There are a few little groups that seem to be upset with
what we’re doing,” Raine said. “Most hunters are very
The predator plans were proposed by the sportsmen groups
Hunter’s Alert and Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, which blame
predators and the wildlife department’s management for the
drop in deer numbers.
The work will be contracted to U.S. Department of
Agriculture Wildlife Services employees, who will shoot and
trap predators in targeted areas across the state where they
have been found to adversely affect deer numbers.
Earlier this year, Wildlife Services officials declined to
proceed with plans to kill lions and other predators because
of opposition from Ken Mayer, state wildlife director.
But Mayer said he’s optimistic that he and project
supporters now will be able to agree on appropriate sites
for predator control.
“I’m committed to working with project proponents with
the caveat of whatever we do is going to be scientifically
based,” he said, adding Nevada ranks No. 2 in the nation
in spending to manage predators for wildlife.
Don Molde, a former board member of the Defenders of
Wildlife and a member of the Humane Society of the United
States, said deer numbers have continued to drop, even
though 71,548 coyotes and 1,698 lions were killed over the
last decade in Nevada.
“Killing predators has done nothing to enhance mule deer
numbers and it appears it never will,” he said. “It may
be that our current population of 107,000 is all the deer
our habitat will support.”