Opponents of the hunt question “the moral compass” of those in support of the hunt.
NDOW Director Tony Wasley defends himself and others who support the hunt by reverting to a “killing is conservation” stance. He applauds himself and his cronies for the money spent on weapons and assorted paraphernalia used to kill these animals, all in the name of “sport.” He ignores the cruelty inflicted on the bears themselves, as well as the NV Wildlife Values Report (2018), funded by his own agency, showing that only 13% of Nevadans support the bear hunt in its current form, using packs of GPS collared hounds to chase these innocent animals to their deaths.
Meanwhile, far from the self-congratulatory Zoom Wildlife Commission meetings of like -minded hunters, NV Bears are scrambling for their lives. Pre-season game cameras have been set by guides who profit from clients vying to win a belt buckle for the biggest trophy animal. From opening day Sept. 15 through December 1, packs of GPS collared hounds are set to chase bears who are trying to pack on pounds in preparation for hibernation. Mother Bears are known to herd their cubs up a tree to safety and continue running as a decoy. Families can be separated in these chases, leaving cubs motherless. Once the dogs’ signal shows they are no longer running, it is assumed they have “treed” the bear. Driving mechanized vehicles, the hunters descend on the bear and kill it using high powered weapons. The bear falls from the tree, often still alive, to the cheers and delight of the waiting hunters.
The traditional ethics of “fair chase” in this trophy hunt are hollow remnants of what has become a tech-driven war game played by those holding tightly to the delusion of a pioneer ethos long passed.
Groups such as Center for Biological Diversity, NV Wildlife Alliance, NoBearHuntNV, Wild Earth Guardians, Sierra Club-Toiyabe Chapter, the Humane Society of the United States, Animal Wellness Action and Bear Defenders submitted a letter to the NV Wildlife Commission requesting this year’s hunt be called off in view of the devastating wildfires. letter
“The Tamarack Fire burned into hunt units 192 and 291 and to within 2 miles of hunt unit 201, within 8 miles of hunt unit 203, and to within 10 miles of hunt unit 204. And as of September 4th, the Caldor Fire has burned to within 3 miles of hunt unit 192 and to within 13 miles of hunt unit 194. Additionally, the enormous Dixie Fire in California has burned to within 15 miles of hunt unit 196.” the letter reads.
“Wildlife which lived within areas now burned would have fled as the fire approached, and while some likely perished, some would be pushed to outside the boundaries of the fire, into foreign terrain and other animals’ territories. This forced migration of wildlife by wildfire will have broad effects on wildlife and trophic interactions in the areas receiving migrating wildlife. And with no refuge from the smoke and ash, these fires cause impacts to animal’s physiology.”
“Wildlife are sentient beings which experience fear, terror, pain, and grief. Surviving catastrophic wildfire, breathing heavy smoke for weeks on end, fleeing for one’s life and the lives of those they are responsible for – bears are suffering as much or more from the Tamarack and Caldor Fires as humans.”
What has been the response of the Wildlife Commission to this letter to date?
What response can one expect from a body majorly composed of individuals who so dissociate from the feelings of another animal as to kill it in the name of recreation.
From 2005 until December 2018, Dr. Karen Layne served as President of the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society. In addition to her role helping animals with LVVHS, Karen also served on the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners, a statewide office appointed by the Governor, from 2012 to 2015, and as chair of the Clark County Animal Advisory Committee from 2010 until 2014.
I attended my first Board of Wildlife Commissioners’ meeting in 2011, based on an article in the local paper. The agenda included a proposal to change the status of the mountain lion as well as add a bear hunt. As a public hearing, it was unimpressive with an unusual all white male board, given the diversity of Southern Nevada. The values of the board immediately were clearly in conflict with my values.
My life then was frenetic. While I had retired from public service in 2005, my full time job was serving as volunteer president of the Las Vegas Valley Humane Society (LVVHS), along with also serving as president of the Edna Rose Crane Educational Foundation and as chair of the Clark County Animal Advisory Committee. There was a small group of people in the community that had formed a coalition to attempt to reduce the ever present cat and dog overpopulation in Southern Nevada and I was a part of that coalition. The 2008 recession had left the LVVHS in terrible financial shape and economic recovery still looked far in the future. I personally was overloaded with animals which had been returned from people losing their homes; board members came and went.
You can imagine my surprise when I was asked in mid-2012 to serve on the Wildlife Commission as the public member from Clark County. My first response was ‘No.” Later in the year, worn down from all the other issues in my life and wanting to make a difference, I agreed to submit an application to the Governor’s Office. I was a Democrat with a big “D.” The Governor was Republican, but I was appointed.
Assurances were given the job wouldn’t take up that much time. Unfortunately, two pieces of legislation greatly impacted my time and were to shape my feelings of the Commission. The first legislation was SB213– passed in the 2013 Legislature. SB213 mandated the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners develop and implement regulations that consider the visitation of traps near populated or heavily used areas. The Trapping Regulation Committee took on this task; three other Commission members from the Sportsman and Conservation side along with me made up that committee. The uproar by trappers over my presence on the Committee created such a problem that a public member—a prolific bob cat trapper—was added to the committee “for fairness.” In retrospect, the addition of this trapper strengthened my thinking that it was a big mistake to join the Commission.
The committee conducted seven meetings which often started on Thursday or the committee might continue after the end of the Commission meetings on Saturday. Needless to say, the time and effort involved on the Committee and the Commission considerably expanded; I found myself away from home more often and for longer periods than originally anticipated. The research time was substantial. There was no time for anything else. The meetings would go on for hours listening to public testimony and debating the issues—the values of the trappers were alien to my values. My age and a bad back made things physically worse. Poor seating and accommodations didn’t help. At one point, I could barely stand at the end of the day. In the end, the trappers got what they wanted—minimal changes regardless of what the general public had to say. It was clear the Commission was all about the trappers and their needs, even though hunters indicated they were not thrilled with current trap visitation times. I might as well have not have been there. I was only there as a “token,” representing the general public so the Commission could say “it listened.” What a waste!
The final straw was AB78, the second piece of legislation, as well as the Policy 23 revisions which were all a part of the lethal control of predators. The Commission always talked about governing by science, but the best example of the way the Commission governed was in a Wildlife Damage Management Committee meeting. At this meeting, as with all these meetings, the Committee was discussing the Predator Control Plan for the year which included both lethal and non-lethal means of controlling predators.
The question as it seemed to me: were we doing some sort of research on a lethal tool, i.e. trapping, or were we going to conduct preliminary evaluation to understand predator populations before we implement lethal removal. The common denominator amongst the vast majority of the projects that I went over, indicated that we had a very good handle on the prey populations, but we had little to no understanding of the predator populations. So, I can’t go back and make any inference on what did or did not happen to those predator populations. (Thursday, March 19, 2015 Meeting of the Wildlife Damage Management Committee)
In other words, the programs will tell you how many lions, coyotes, bears, etc. were killed, but not what that meant to the population of those predators. If a program wanted to insert some desert big horns into an area with lions, the program would kill all the lions in the area so they wouldn’t eat the desert big horns. Forget the issue of habitat or habitat loss which is the biggest issue in wildlife management.
The Predator Plan was all about killing the predators that hunt game animals. The $3 fee for each tag for a game animal was used to fund the program. During this time there was much discussion about this fee and making sure that the greatest amount of money went for lethal predator control. The minutes of these meetings are available on the NDOW site. It is worthwhile reading these minutes because they best provide documentation as to the nightmare that the Commission is inflicting on predator animals in Nevada without considering what the end result of these lethal programs are to these populations. Certain commissioners who came on the committee became even more rabid about the percentage of fees and the amount of money going to these programs—demanding all of the money taken in be allocated and allocated to lethal programs. These demands culminated in AB78, which was passed in the 2015 legislative session where there was a Republican majority (although this bill only passed by one vote in the Senate). It required that 80 percent of the $3 tag monies be spent for lethal predator control even if these kill-the-predator programs had shown that killing predators did little if anything to increase herds of game animals, especially deer. My last meeting on this Committee was on September 24, 2015 in which the 80 percent requirement was discussed. It was time for me to leave.
I served with some good people on the Commission, but we haven’t stayed in touch. I learned more about the state and got to visit some beautiful parts of it. I met a lot of people who shared my values and fought against some of these programs, and are still fighting against these programs. We have stayed in touch. I attended a couple of meetings after I left, but haven’t been back for a long time although I watched parts of meetings online. The pandemic has been good for the Commission as it has been able to hide more from the public and involve those who don’t agree with them less. Yet, the wildfires, the unwillingness of the Commission to deal with Wildlife Killing Contests, or the use of hounds for bear hunts, the unwillingness to deal with loss of habitat issues, both at the local and Commission level, will eventually catch up with the State. It may require getting rid of the Commission or at least the $3 tag fee, or dramatically changing the composition of the Commission—adding a couple of people will not resolve the problems. There are bigger problems for wildlife out there that the Commission appears blind to—loss of habitat from wildfires, the increasing drought and water loss for wildlife, the desire to continue to add more big horn sheep without the understanding that poor habitat and overcrowding will cause bigger issues than predators, the use of technology in weaponry and locating animals, and possible changes in funding formulas.
As one gets older, there is a recognition that there is only so much time left; every minute is precious. Many of those minutes and hours were wasted on the Commission when I could have made more of a difference on the issue of pet overpopulation if I had devoted that time to that issue. I try not to waste any more time dealing with the Commission, although I will write that email or letter on the same issues that people of similar values have been fighting for so long. As they say, “Hope springs eternal.”
We found a gopher snake, motionless in the street by our driveway. My husband Martin carried him reverently to the hill, far from concrete and cars.
The next evening, we walked with the dog to the snake’s resting place and found no snake. Our neighbors joined us with their dog and told us of their fear of snakes which was so extreme that they had taken a different path to avoid the one by their back gate.
Martin reported carrying the probably dead snake from our house to the desert – an act of kindness they found difficult to fathom because of their fear. Chris told Christina and the children it was the ghost snake which had made them afraid to go back through the side gate. Martin laughed that he moved such a snake from the welcome mat of his workshop earlier that day. I had seen it slither away from where I’d started to water its periwinkle cave, not realizing the disruption I’d caused.
Questions arise in my mind. “Do ghost snakes get blown about in the wind?” Answers too.
If they existed, ghost snakes could fly, but not of their own volition. For that, they must become birds – like the birds that Chris finds who have flown into their window – one a week, he claims, and wind up in the beaks of the waiting hawk who sits on the hot tub anticipating Chris hearing the bang of bird head on glass and waits for him to toss the feathers and bones without the inner bird up into the air for him.
Do the flying ghost snakes collide in the wind with the spirits of hawk-devoured birds? Dead birds navigate, no longer bothered by barriers like windows.
Martin says carrying the snake was a mystical experience for him.
The next evening, Diego Dog and I venture out alone and are particularly watchful of every step. We find no one – no snakes, lizards, hawks. They had all gone to bed, out of sight of the trail although traces remained of their paths in the sand.
Our snake friend was curled like a cat on the warm stones in front of our door. His patterns of black and beige to brown could be woven on the bead loom, his little head, resting on his shoulders, his tail curled around so the main part of his body rested on it, was covered in tiny ants. I wanted to brush them off but Martin said they would be nice snacks for him. Oh little snake, how do you provoke such nurturing feelings in me when our neighbors run from you or try to kill you? I won’t put my face to yours the way I do with the bird but I recognize a common ancestry and I bow to you little snake. Namaste, dear life form, crawling from stars and dirt and particles of patterns so mysterious I can’t place them. You redefine my sense of beauty – like Coltrane at the end of a long improvisation when he escapes all composition rules into the chaos of before worlds and comes back into the weaving with beads in even patterns of brown, beige and black, blending into the uneven rocks and the white concrete of the driveway.
The snake died. The stick his body curled around wasn’t a stick. It was his own guts that the ants were crawling. He managed to slither in the dark to the sun where I found him in the early morning, head turned up like Charlie Cat does when he’s fast asleep. He looked so peaceful I thought he was simply taking in the rays. We wouldn’t have let him suffer his night of dying had we known.
Leonard died, no connection and every connection to the snake. I had written to our son Alonzo about our gopher snake, waiting for him on the doorstep to thank him for saving his bull snake cousin at Leonard’s home. Alonzo quipped back that he didn’t need to wait and it turned out he couldn’t.
Ghost snakes floating in the music of mind in cottonwood trees are always singing – or are those birds? A thousand unknown birds can’t replace the one that is known.
Photo courtesy of The Bushcamp Company. Mfuwe Lodge – famous for wild elephants walking through reception each year to reach ripened mangoes behind the lodge.
Cathy Smith and Stacy James prevailed in their first Nevada legislative effort Jan. 11, 2018 when SB 194, the Endangered Wildlife Trade law, was signed by Governor Sandoval. The law prohibits the purchase, sale or possession with intent to sell any item in this State that a person knows or should know contains or is, wholly or partially, made of an animal part or byproduct derived from any species of elephant, rhinoceros, whale, tiger, lion, leopard, cheetah, jaguar, pangolin, sea turtle, shark, ray, mammoth, narwhal, walrus or hippopotamus. Oregon, Washington and California all have similar laws. In addition to this achievement, Cathy is a practising physician, world traveler, photographer, and former member of the Washoe County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife. (CAB)
Cathy was a minority voice on the Washoe County CAB steadfastly advocating for wildlife protection, and we hope soon to have her reflections on that experience.
Stacy James, who worked alongside Cathy for the passage of SB194, is a founder of Dazzle Africa who has led safaris in Zambia for many years. Her organization contributes to the welfare of African wildlife and communities.
Cathy Smith on her legislative experience:
Although I am far from expert on anything legislative, I will briefly write on our success with SB 194, the wildlife trafficking bill. The first, and one of the most challenging steps, is to find a bill sponsor. Stacy James was the successful one in that regard. If you can find a sponsor that is true advocate for your bill, you are ahead of the game. The next step is to find co-sponsors from both parties by having meetings with anyone possible. Our bill sponsor found most of the co-sponsors for us. Next, we created 1-2 page descriptions of the bill and began “stalking” legislators. We spoke with members of both parties, even the ones we knew would not support us. We took the information from those meetings to mold the bill into something more palatable for everyone. For example, because some people collected shark teeth, we changed the language of the bill to shark fin. We created an exclusion for knives and guns containing ivory for the state bill. By making these small changes, I think we were better able to demonstrate our willingness to listen to all opinions. Preventing misinformation is key as well. We made several one page infographics counteracting the inaccurate information that was placed by the opposition. We were also really lucky to have supporters willing to testify and meet with legislators along with us. It was a long painful road, but it was definitely worth it in the end.
Visit Project Coyote for complete information, watch their film, and sign the petition!
Suggested Talking Points:
Please individualize your message!
Coyote populations have a rebound effect. The more killed, the more will be born. They have expanded their range despite efforts to cull their numbers.
It is not Fair Chase to use electronic calling devices, snares, and powerful guns to kill animals.
Children are exposed to violence and disrespect for animals.
These contests are giving Nevada’s hunting community and her residents a bad reputation.
As more states ban the contests, predator hunters are flocking to Nevada to enter killing contests.
More shooters on the loose pose danger to the public.
Randomly killing wild carnivores will not prevent conflicts with livestock and will not increase numbers of deer or other game for hunters.
Killing contests are not wildlife management.
Regulatory “solutions” or other compromises will perpetuate these unethical, cruel events and will then put the Dept. of Wildlife in the position of sanctioning and supervising them. Banning the contests is the only reasonable and effective solution.
Coyotes are essential to the ecosystem as rodent control and scavengers.
The myth of the evil coyote is folklore believed by generations. An animal is not “evil” because it is a predator. For that matter, coyotes are omnivores, eating many foods in addition to meat.
Contrary to the myth of the evil coyote, the majority of the public admire the intelligence, agility, adaptability and iconic sound of the “Song Dog”.
Peaceful co-existence with coyotes can be achieved through simple precautions in suburban and rural locations
Both the Clark County Commission and the Reno City Council voted to ban these events.