RENO, Nev. (AP) - State wildlife commissioners voted Saturday to keep the same quota of 20 black bears for hunters to bag in Nevada this season. But unlike the state's inaugural bear hunt last year, they decided not to end the season early if hunters kill a certain number of female bears.
Under their action, the season set for Sept. 15 to Dec. 31 will end if and when a total of 20 bears are killed regardless of sex. Last year, the hunt would have ended early had a sixth female or a total of 20 bears been killed before the end of the season. Fourteen bears were killed last year.
Kathryn Bricker of NoBearHunt.org branded commissioners' change of policy regarding female bears as "unconscionable" and a "huge change for the worse."
"Wildland female bears reproduce at a much older age, and hunters prefer to kill larger animals," she told The Associated Press. "They are now subjecting female bears to overhunting. The reproductive capacity of female bears is being diminished severely."
The change was made after hunters complained the quota of six female bears put pressure on them to kill a bear as soon as possible last season. Some hunters bagged female bears because they thought it would be their only opportunity to kill one.
"It (change) gives the hunter more time in the field with less pressure to harvest so they can look for what they really want, which is the male," Nevada Department of Wildlife spokeswoman Teresa Moiola said. "They don't typically like to harvest females."
Like last year, commissioners set a quota of 41 tags for Nevada hunters and four tags for non-resident hunters.
At a Friday public hearing, nine people spoke out against the bear hunt and four expressed support for it. All 17 of the wildlife commission's county advisory boards also endorsed the hunt.
Bricker, whose Lake Tahoe-based group has been waging an ongoing fight to end the hunt, said she was disappointed by the commission's action Saturday. It was taken on an 8-1 vote, with David McNinch - the commission's conservation representative - the lone dissenter.
Her group secured opinions by 11 independent experts who concluded the wildlife commission had not met its burden of proof to ensure the hunt would not harm the state's black bear population.
"What the commission proved again is they exist solely to support hunter opportunity and not to conserve and protect," Bricker said.
When the wildlife commission approved the bear hunt last year, biologists estimated the state was home to 200 to 300 black bears, with most concentrated in the Carson Range in and around the Tahoe basin. Earlier this year, the commission voted to ban bear hunting on the Nevada side of Tahoe.
Black bears also are found in the Sweetwater, Pine Nut and Wassuk mountains of western Nevada.