Wildlife Commission under attack ‘from both extremes,’ says director

Wildlife Commission under attack ‘from both extremes,’ says director
A coyote in Death Valley National Park. Photo by Joshua Wilking on Unsplash

by Dana Gentry, Nevada Current
September 24, 2021

Two contentious issues facing Nevada’s Wildlife Commission — coyote killing contests and the state’s “for sport” black bear hunt — and the passions polarizing the debates, are resulting in personal attacks on commissioners and staff, Tony Wasley, the executive director of the Nevada Division Wildlife, said at Friday’s meeting.  

“We often say that it’s the extremes that dictate the terms of the debate,” Wasley told commissioners and staff. “This is, you know, never more evident, and there are falsehoods, you know, swirling around both these issues from, from both extremes, if you will.”

Earlier this year, the Clark County Commission passed a resolution condemning coyote killing contests and urged the Wildlife Commission to do the same. By discussing but not acting on the issue, the commission has subjected itself to hours of public comment illustrating Nevada’s cultural divide, some of it highly critical of Nevada’s wildlife management. 

The bear hunt and coyote killing contest controversies have thrust the Wildlife Commission, which usually does its business with little fanfare, into a higher public profile. 

“I read that your, that Nevada’s bear population is going extinct,” Wasley said. “I read that the Commission is proposing a ban on hunting, and both sides, both extremes in these debates are using social media platforms to attack the personal character of staff, of the commission, to drive their personal agenda and their narratives.” 

Wasley said he wanted to “publicly condemn” those who are making threats or alleging “the Department of Wildlife is lacking a moral compass…” 

Last month the Current reported that bear activists were calling for Nevada officials to call off the hunt this year because bears are already stressed by wildfires that ravaged their habitat.  

“Given the habitat destruction and displacement the bears are experiencing due to the fires, to now also chase them with packs of hounds to then be shot in a recreational hunt is cruel beyond measure,” Kathryn Bricker, executive director of No Bear Hunt NV told the Current last month. “Have we no moral compass?”  

Wasley thanked commissioners and apologized that they are “subject to the kind of criticism, and certainly we’re all subject to criticism and scrutiny in the public eye, but when it’s falsehoods of personal attacks, it just isn’t warranted.”

Wasley declined to provide examples of the offending comments to the Current.

“Not at this time,” he said via email. 

Wasley said the commissioners and staff “do more for conservation in a week’s time than many of your critics do in a lifetime.” 

“I appreciate your comments because it’s been, as we all know, a little rough these last couple of months, especially and even in the last couple of days, so I appreciate that a lot,” Commission Chair Tiffany East told the director.

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