Online Articles (147)

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Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By Charlie Myers - 

I attended several hours of the Nevada Commission on Wildlife’s board meeting held in Elko recently. Two items of concern to me were the sage grouse hunting season and predator control.

The hunting season for sage grouse came up on the agenda; each County Advisory Board (CAB) made their recommendation to the Wildlife Commission. The Elko CAB recommended a one-week reduction in sage grouse hunting. Several other rural CABs made the same recommendation.

There was a brief discussion by the board and an NDOW biologist, Mr. Espinoza. His comments to the board did not agree with the CABs as he felt the “wing” program had too many advantages to reduce the week the CABs were requesting.

The board vote 6 to 3 to not reduce the sage grouse hunting season. So, I want to get this all straight. Not all hunters put their “wings” in the barrels, which makes the data skewed to start with, interesting. Then take into account that our Wildlife Commission wouldn’t reduce by one week the hunting season on a bird that very well could get listed under the Endangered Species Act. The bird that is being managed under the BLM Interim Management Policy — a policy which is probably stricter than being listed as an Endangered Species. The bird that has already caused the loss of the China Wind Project and several million dollars in tax revenue to Elko County.

But we are going to continue to hunt this bird. The bird that caused the loss of 60,000 acres in oil and gas leases and the loss of that revenue to Elko County. A bird because of its habitat caused another 100,000 acres in possible leases to not even be considered, worth another $2.7 million. Yet we continue to hunt a bird that could negatively impact 11 states, Elko County and every resident and rancher in our area.

Our CAB got it right, reduce the hunting season. The sage grouse is already negatively impacting our county; where’s the logic in not supporting our CABs recommendation?

It was mentioned that less than 10 percent get taken during hunting season. To me, if we took our CAB’s recommendation that could be up to 10 percent more sage grouse we wouldn’t have to worry about impacting the numbers for listing. The numbers may be small but we need to do everything possible to keep this bird from listing.

Predator control of ravens needs to be a priority as we deal with sage grouse. I came to the realization during the Wildlife Commission meeting that NDOW would get exactly what they wanted, as there were several 6 to 3 votes that day, regardless of the negative impacts to our state and county. In my opinion many on that board that day did not support their counties or hunters.

If the sage grouse gets listed the impact to Elko County will be like nothing we’ve ever experienced before. Many outdoor activities that many people enjoy will be limited or gone, family ranches will be impacted and economic development will most certainly take a huge hit as well. But, let’s keep hunting them just because ...

———————

Charlie Myers is an Elko County Commissioner.

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press
In times past I awoke to songbirds and doves. Now it is to the cawing of ravens.

At their June 22 and 23 meeting, Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners voted to eliminate funding predator control programs intended to protect sage grouse. They did fund research into Pine Nut Mountains vegetation and sage grouse. Apparently helpful, and conveniently near agency central offices.

Over the last four decades, the Nevada Department of Wildlife has de-emphasized predator control. Raven takings have ranged between zero and 1,500 while the population has increased 600 percent.

The statewide raven population may exceed 952,000 at an average density of 8.7 per square mile. Thus, at its most intense effort, the agency takes less than two tenths of a percent of the predators which may outnumber the sage grouse nearly eleven to one. Meanwhile, agency personnel threaten county officials that they would list sage grouse as endangered because it needs agency protection.

Studies of sage grouse nest failure indicate that in areas of greater than 2.4 ravens per square mile only 50 percent of nests will survive. At 5.8, virtually all nests fail.

The agencies insist that removing territorial ravens simply provides the opportunity for transitory ravens to move in at twice the density. But territorials hunt at triple the efficiency of transitories, so the net depredation efficiency becomes two thirds. A 50 percent depredation may drop to 33, meaning the survival rate rises from 50 to 67 percent.

The scientific method, common sense, and common decency all cry for aggressive predator control on behalf of sage grouse. But these three concepts apparently are not in the lexicon of the Board, NDOW, nor other agencies and groups presuming to act on behalf of the bird. This despite historical records indicating the highest confirmed sage grouse populations were during the decades of extensive sheep and cattle grazing and aggressive predator control. Also, much lower wildfire incidence and intensity occurred during those years. Tellingly, agencies are reticent to discuss wildlife loss from firestorms on undergrazed range.

The bureau-scientific complex has substituted political science for the natural sciences. That does provide a certain efficiency in that all conclusions become uniform and rote. It has instituted a troika system whereby stakeholders outside the complex have no recourse beyond the agency troika which juries, judges, and executes all verdicts.

Agency officials declare sage grouse population counts don’t matter, only habitat control matters. What they really are saying is they do not care that private sector grazing practices and private sector predator control may increase the bird’s population by one-third or more. The agencies want the budgets which will come with increased control; they do not want ranchers and farmers doing well without bureaucrats.

Ravens prey on much more than sage grouse. Among the songbirds formerly serenading the neighborhood were Mountain Bluebirds. Since they sanction the raven’s status by accepting its predation, will the Wildlife Board now move to adopt the raven as the state bird?

Practicing political science does not require shame … .

———————

Ralph R. Sacrison is a senior mining engineer based in Elko.

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By Cecil Fredi - 

From July 1989 to June 1991, Nevada Department of Wildlife conducted a survey of sage grouse production and mortality. Fourteen hundred eggs were placed in 200 simulated sage grouse nests with seven eggs per nest. This was during the 15-day period when sage hens lay their eggs.

The results of this survey are unbelievable. At the completion of the 15-day period, all 1,400 eggs were destroyed on both study areas. Ravens were believed to be the chief nest predator.

During the 1989 legislative session, a bill was introduced to do some raven control. NDOW did not show up to testify. Even after Sen. Jacobsen requested that NDOW come to the legislature to testify on its own survey, NDOW chose not to testify in favor of raven control.

NDOW took sportsmen’s money to identify the problem and when it was time to implement a solution, they were missing in action. Former Wildlife Commissioner Bill Bradley phoned me to inform me that the study had been declared invalid. The reason? NDOW had marked all of the nests with a white flag. The ravens spotted the flags and realized the eggs were there. My answer to Mr. Bradley was, “NDOW must believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus.”

A recent study by United States Department of Agriculture in Wyoming found that predation was the leading cause of grouse mortality. A USDA official stated that coyotes, eagles, badgers and ravens all contribute to sage grouse mortality. Predation accounted for 81 percent of chick mortalities. Grouse were seven times more likely to survive in areas where predator control efforts are under way, the USDA official reported.

When Gov. Brian Sandoval reappointed director Ken Mayer, NDOW’s leadership has only gotten worse. Combine this with current Wildlife Commission Chairman Mike McBeath and many others on the commission who don’t believe in predator control, nothing will be done for sage grouse or mule deer. Now let’s prove it.

Pat Laughlin’s group, Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, had a project approved by the former Wildlife Commission. This project was for the protection of sage grouse nests and chicks from raven predation. NDOW Director Ken Mayer, was the major reason this project was held hostage for 21⁄2 years. In addition to the Wildlife Commission, Elko County Commissioners and Elko County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife approved this project.

Director Mayer would not say the word “request,” so Wildlife Services could not start the federally approved DRC-1339 toxic egg program without this request from Mayer. It is obvious that Ken Mayer is against predator control. Does this sound like someone who is truly concerned about the seriousness of the sage grouse problem? He would rather feed the sage grouse eggs to the ravens than kill a raven. One reason former Governor Jim Gibbons fired Mayer was for his refusal to help our diminishing mule deer herd by doing predator control.

Now enters Governor Sandoval and guess what? Nevada Bighorns Unlimited puts on a big fundraiser for Sandoval to help him get elected and back comes Ken Mayer for a second round as NDOW director. Sandoval appointed him in direct opposition to other recommendations by the Nevada Board of Wildlife Commissioners. The newly elected governor then also placed NBU members on the Wildlife Commission as former Governor Gibbons’ appointed commissioners’ terms expired. To date, their only interest has been in Nevada bighorn sheep. Good old Nevada politics!

Now enters Pete Mori, Elko County rancher. Sandoval reappointed him as a Wildlife Commissioner to represent livestock interests throughout the state. Like Ken Mayer, this is his second round. This was all done by NBU’s writing a letter to Sandoval and urging him to reappoint Mori. So, why would NBU wish to endorse a livestock person to the Wildlife Commission? Because Pete Mori votes the party line with NDOW and NBU every time. They are assured a secure vote from Pete for all their programs! Again, this is called Nevada politics!

At the Wildlife Commission meeting held in Elko on June 22-23, Director Mayer stacked commission members, and with assistance from NBU messiah Larry Johnson lurking in the shadows directing traffic, had the commission vote to repeal any money for the protection of sage grouse nests from raven predation. This shows none of these people truly care about the seriousness of the sage grouse issue.

Of course, Commissioner Pete Mori, livestock representative, voted right along with NDOW by supporting this motion. He also voted with NDOW for a two-week sage grouse season, which makes no sense because we are trying to save sage grouse, not kill them. So you may ask, why is a Nevada-born, lifetime rancher from Elko County voting with these wildlife extremists?

To my knowledge, Mr. Mori has not attended any Elko County CAB meetings since being reappointed. Additionally, he has not attended several sage grouse symposiums hosted by the Elko County Commission. He only appears at Nevada Wildlife Commission meetings to vote the party line with NDOW and NBU. It is very obvious that Mr. Mori has “sold out” to these wildlife organizations. He is not representing the livestock interests of Nevada. He is representing NDOW, NBU, and Mori ranches. Pete Mori may well be in contention for the Nevada Bighorns Unlimited Volunteer of the Year!

Someone needs to put Commissioner Mori’s feet to the fire and ask him who does he really represent?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. NDOW has taken this cliché to an entirely new level. They do nothing for decades and expect different results. Sage grouse and mule deer have no chance of recovery with the reappointment of Ken Mayer and Governor Sandoval’s appointments to the Wildlife Commission. If ever there were a state agency that needs an oversight committee, it is the Nevada Department of Wildlife.

———————

Cecil Fredi is president of HUNTER’S ALERT and has lived in Las Vegas for 70 years.

 

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

To the Editor:

Good news for Elko county sportsmen: Wellington resigns.

The article that appeared in Tuesday’s Elko Daily Free Press by Ken Wellington must have been written by Nevada Department of Wildlife. I say this because NDOW’s so-called science is bogus as is most of the article. NDOW doubled the number of deer tags from last year with only a 2 percent increase in deer population. That is bogus science.

As a county advisory board to manage wildlife member, Mr. Wellington has been gullible enough to accept NDOW’s science without question for years. He would believe NDOW’s armchair biologists over people like Cliff Gardner and John Carpenter, who witnessed the Rubies’ deer migrations numbering in the thousands in the 1950s and 1960s.

He bought into NDOW’s habitat excuse. Did he ever ask NDOW the following questions: Who will do the habitat restoration? How much will it cost? How long will it take to restore Nevada’s habitat? Probably not as apparently Wellington never questioned NDOW.

I can answer the question as to how long it will take. NDOW’s biologists will use the everlasting habitat excuse until their 30-year state pensions kick in.

The true sportsmen of Elko County will never miss Mr. Wellington but NDOW Director Ken Mayer sure will.

Cecil Fredi

(Fredi is president of HUNTER’S ALERT and has lived in Las Vegas for 70 years.)


Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press

By Pat Laughlin - Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife - 

I am writing this in response to “Contentious Deer” and “Majority of Wildlife Board Resigns” articles printed in the EDFP between May 12-15.

Elko County Commissioner Charlie Myers was correct in stating that the NRS 501.297 states, “The boards shall solicit and evaluate local opinion and advise the Commission on matters relating to the management of wildlife within their respective counties.”

I was at the Elko County Wildlife Advisory Board meeting where one of the main discussions was the increase in mule deer tags. What I saw was a room full of lifetime Elko County sportsmen, ranchers, outfitters and dignitaries asking to see the science behind these proposed quota increase numbers. Elko CAB members Matt Murray and Tom Barnes voted against the increase and I commend them for “evaluating local opinion.” Lincoln, White Pine and Eureka County Wildlife Advisory boards listened to the public comments and all voted against the increase in deer tags quotas for their respective counties.

NDOW data shows Area 10 deer estimates were down 1,500 animals in 2012 from 2011 but they proposed doubling the tags for that area. NDOW stated that the increase in buck numbers limits fawn recruitment via competition for limited winter range in some areas. My question is which specific areas and where is the study of this occurrence in each specific area? There is none!

A previous Area 10 doe hunt was implemented in 2009. NDOW mule deer expert Tony Wasley stated by examining a large sample of the harvested does, it should show that these deer are habitat restricted according to body composition and age structure. Current Area 10 biologist Caleb McAdoo stated we have too many old does with no fawns out there. To this day, we are still waiting for a summary of the study of the last Area 10 doe hunt.

Based on what charts we did receive from NDOW, we know that the average age of does harvested in the Area 10 2009 doe hunt was 3.4 years old; this contradicts what NDOW believes, that we have too many old does. There were several old does in the 10- to 11-year-old range that had fawns or signs of milk or nursing. How can a doe this old, that’s living in a habitat restricted herd, have a fawn? How can they still be alive? These points have been brought up numerous times with no response from NDOW.

Let’s look at Area 6. According to NDOW, the deer herd increased 2,100 animals from 2011-2012. This is in an area that NDOW has repeatedly stated can’t support one more deer on the winter range because of the past fires. These fires have also destroyed intermediate migration corridors between summer and winter ranges. If there is no habitat, how can the deer herd increase?

So here we are year after year listening to NDOW talk about how the entire state of Nevada is habitat-restricted and can’t support any more deer. There are many mountain ranges large and small in the state that have historically had mule deer on them that haven’t been burnt by fires and livestock grazing has been reduced dramatically and you won’t find a single deer.

We agree with NDOW statements about the perfect storm situation with three wet springs followed by an open winter helping the deer herds. These wet springs help all wildlife in a desert but what they don’t mention is the past State Wildlife Commission eliminated all doe hunts and cut buck tags 25 percent across the state to help give the deer a little boost. This no doubt helped with the increase in deer. That State Wildlife Commission has now been replaced with new members appointed by Governor Sandoval that seem to care only about sheep and not deer.

Here is a little science that we do know. NDOW survey flights, according to their own model, are subject to plus or minus 20 percent. This is a 40 percent margin of error. NDOW has stated a 3 percent statewide herd increase and they are doubling the mule deer tags statewide. Where is the science to justify that increase?

At the end of the day one thing is evident, if you dig deep enough, and that is revenue. You won’t find this information on the NDOW website but, it’s a breakdown of how much money the increase of deer tags will generate for NDOW including the 3-to-1 federal matching funds.

Each resident tag generates approximately $135, excluding license fee, and $3 predator fee. Each non-resident tag produces $981.50, not including license fee, and $3 predator fee. Guided tags $1,221.50 with the same exclusions. Here are some figures for the increase in tag quotas:

Additional resident tag revenue: $1,713,825

Additional non-resident tag and guided tag revenue $1,133,055

Doe hunts: $179,280

For a total of: $3,026,160

I wonder how much of this $3 million increase will be spent on helping the mule deer or will it be used for more sheep transplants, sheep relocations and sheep guzzler projects?

The 2012 Tag Draw was conducted Wednesday, May 23, and of the 923 available doe tags in Area 10, NDOW only received 143 applications. This tells me that the sportsmen of Nevada do not want doe hunts and do not want to harvest does.

I think it is clear that the increase in tag quotas and doe hunts are all about revenue and not about what the citizens of Northern Nevada want.

———————

Pat Laughlin is president of Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife and was a member of Gov. Jim Gibbons Mule Deer Restoration Committee.

 

By Cecil Fredi

Reprinted from The Nevada Rancher, April 2012 -

The definition of fraud is to misrepresent the truth to take money away from a person or persons. It appears this is exactly what Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) has been doing for decades to Nevada deer hunters. Using NDOW’s statistics, in 1988 there were 250,000 deer in our state. Today their estimates are 105,000. Knowledgeable people believe that the real number is much lower. The reason for NDOW’s allegedly inflated numbers is that they can sell more deer tags thus creating more revenue for the agency.

Currently, a reputable outside independent agency with two PH.D’s on staff is doing a study on the decline of deer numbers in Nevada.  This project has had many setbacks. NDOW refused to provide them with the deer data. It took the Wildlife Commission (Jim Gibbons’ good appointees) using freedom of information act requests on two separate occasions to obtain the needed information. Why was this necessary? What are they hiding?  NDOW director Ken Mayer did everything possible to insure the independent firm did not receive the information for them to do their study.  Because of NDOW’s stonewalling, the project has been set back over a year.

When the initial findings are released, a peer review should be initiated. The collected data should be sent to many specialists for their findings, akin to a doctor’s second or third opinion. Rest assured that Ken Mayer will fight all of this. What is NDOW afraid of?  If they were doing their jobs and not cooking the books on deer numbers, they should have nothing to hide. In fact, they should welcome this review to put all of this speculation to rest. But they won’t.

At a Wildlife Commission meeting, Paul Dixon, Chairman of Clark County Advisory Board to Manage Wildlife threatened to sue this contractor if there was anything negative stated about NDOW’s science. Apparently, Mr. Dixon doesn’t care about the truth. NDOW’s science can’t be too good when they admitted that they use some of Utah’s data for determining the number of deer tags in our state.  How is that for bogus science?

For over two decades, NDOW has used 15 different excuses for Nevada’s mule deer decline.  For the past few years, NDOW has used the habitat excuse. This is an excuse that they can use for several more decades till their retirements kick in. It’s hard to blame habitat when elk and deer occupy the same areas.  Elk numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades while deer numbers have drastically declined. The reason for this decline is that the main source of food for the mountain lion is the mule deer.

Most biologists believe (but not NDOW’s) that a lion will eat a deer a week. However, NDOW refuses to acknowledge that we have a predator problem. It took two sportsmen’s organizations, Hunters Alert and Nevada Hunters Association to get a bill passed in 2001 in order to fund predator control which is done by Wildlife Services. NDOW is not going to and never has done any predator control work.   How bad is the lion problem in our state? In Hunt Unit 014, which is one of the smallest units in the state, Wildlife Services removed 40 mountain lions in three years. This means 480 deer or bighorn sheep are still alive because of this lion removal.

I’m not the only one who believes fish and game agencies have corrupted themselves. Guy Eastman, famous outdoor writer and photographer, recently wrote an article called Predator Death Spiral. He named the article to explain what happens when “a wildlife agency attempts to hide or “pad” their big game population estimates when over predation begins to take hold”.  I would urge everyone concerned with wildlife to read this very explosive and truthful article. Look for him at www.eastmans.com/guy/2011/11/the-predator-death-spiral/.

Let’s prove why NDOW director Ken Mayer and Governor Sandoval’s appointments to the Wildlife Commission led by Chairman Mike McBeath will not do anything about not only deer but all big game in our state. In August, 2008 the wolf was declared a big game animal in the state. This was done by Governor Kenny Guinn’s appointees led by Wildlife Commission chairman Clint Bentley and NDOW director Ken Mayer. The re-introduction of wolves in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, has decimated their big game herds.  One area in Idaho has lost 90% of its elk because of wolves. . With leadership like this, not only will the deer never return, but like other states, all big game will be decimated. When this occurs, be sure to thank Clint Bentley, Ken Mayer, Mike McBeath and the rest of Governor Sandoval’s appointees to the commission.

Jim Gibbons’ good Wildlife commissioners (6 of 9) instructed Ken Mayer that if there was never any evidence of wolf packs in Nevada, the wolf was to be deleted from the big game animal classification. Ken Mayer refused to do this. A the December 3, 2011 Wildlife Commission meeting led by Chairman Mike McBeath, the Commission voted to keep the wolf as a big game animal. Currently, the wolf is a federally protected species. However, at some point, the control of wolves will be the right of each state.  If proven that there were no wolves in Nevada, it could then be classified as an unprotected predator.

In 1929, the black bear in Nevada was classified as a big game animal. It was not until 2011, 82 years later, that a season and quota was set. All of this, of course, was under the objection of director Ken Mayer. Judging from this past history, there would never be a season set on wolves until all species of big game were depleted in Nevada.

Wildlife Commissioner Scott Raine worked long and hard on a new Mule Deer Management Guidelines (Policy 28).  It was a 13 point program necessary to preserve, protect, manage, and restore wildlife and its habitat. The committee was composed of people like Cliff Gardner and John Carpenter who had witnessed the Ruby Valley deer migration which numbered in the thousands in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Today the migrations are all but gone because there are no deer. At the December 2011 meeting led by Chairman Mike McBeath and director Ken Mayer, the complete policy was deleted.  So much for deer restoration in our state.

Heritage Funds are generated from the auction of big game tags. This amounts to about $400,000 a year. This money is to be used for enhancement of game birds, game animals and game fish. One provision of this statute is that the money can be used “for the management and control of predatory wildlife in this state”.  The Wildlife commissioners, not NDOW, select the projects to be funded. For years, NDOW’s top request, i.e. spending the most money, was for transplanting bighorn sheep. NDOW believes it is more important to focus on the 280 people who hunt sheep than on the 51,011 hunters who used to hunt deer. The use of Heritage funds for predator control work was never considered until  Jim Gibbons appointed commissioners who recognized its importance in saving the deer herds as well as other species.

These Wildlife commissioners approved three predator control projects. One project was submitted by HUNTER’S ALERT for mule deer restoration.  Pat Laughlin of Nevada  Alliance 4 Wildlife submitted a proposal for mule deer enhancement and sage grouse recovery. Mike Stremler, a rancher and lion hunter submitted a proposal for deer enhancement by removing lions in a particular area.  The only way NDOW would approve Stremler’s proposal was if it was done as a research project.  During Stremler’s initial presentation, Director Ken Mayer stated that his biologists told him there were no lions in the Stillwater Mountain area.  Stremler took one lion and reported that there were six others.  Stremler’s total in a little over a one year period was the removal of eleven lions and there are at least three more in that area. All of this in a 12 mile radius!

In the course of one week, 139 coyotes were removed in Unit 031 on the HUNTER’S ALERT project with this money. Pat Laughlin’s project was responsible for removing 239 coyotes in less than three days in Elko County. All the coyotes removed were in wintering deer areas and many were shot off a freshly killed deer.  Director Ken Mayer fought against all of these proposals. Does this sound like someone who wants to enhance game birds and animals? These initial predator control programs with Heritage Fund money were extremely effective. However, with Governor Sandoval’s Wildlife commissioners, this money will never again be used for predator control.

When former Governor Jim Gibbons hired Ken Mayer, he instructed the new director to implement one of his major objectives, to bring back our mule deer. After doing nothing for four years about this serious problem, Gibbons fired him.  Mayer obviously had no intention of doing anything about the mule deer problem. For decades, NDOW has been a bighorn sheep oriented agency. With the reappointment of Ken Mayer and the newly appointed commissioners by Governor Sandoval, it will return to a sheep only wildlife agency. Deer enhancement will never be considered.

In summary, there are three reasons why our deer will never return.  1. Director Ken Mayer has no interest in doing anything about the mule deer. This has been proven by his first four years of doing nothing. 2. It will take some serious predator control to reduce lions and coyotes. This is not going to happen with Governor Sandoval’s Wildlife Commission appointees and Ken Mayer’s past performance on predator control. 3. NDOW has over-inflated deer numbers so badly that the deer have no chance of recovery.

If there is a peer review and the results prove that NDOW has inflated deer numbers, then heads should start to roll. Start at the top with Director Ken Mayer and go right on down to all of the biologists who have been providing the bogus information for decades. Fraud is a serious charge. When it is a multi-million dollar fraud, it deserves serious attention.  But when it goes on for decades it is shameful and inexcusable. Someone needs to be held accountable. At the February 2007 Wildlife Commission meeting, I was there to testify about another audit that NDOW had failed. Then Chairman Chris McKenzie asked me what I wanted. I answered that I wanted two things. Keep the corruption out of NDOW and bring back our deer. Five years later, NDOW has proven they can’t do either.

Cecil Fredi is president of HUNTER’S ALERT and has lived in Las Vegas for 69 years.

Reprinted from the Las Vegas Review Journal - 

To the editor:

Your April 13 editorial, "A 'stupid bird'?," did not state directly who or what was responsible for the decline of the sage grouse. I will do that.

From July 1989 to June 1991, the Nevada Department of Wildlife conducted a survey of sage grouse production and mortality. Fourteen hundred eggs were placed in 200 simulated sage grouse nests, with seven eggs per nest. This was during the 15-day period when sage hens lay their eggs.

At the completion of the 15 days, all 1,400 eggs were destroyed at both study areas. Ravens were believed to be the chief nest predator.

During the 1991 legislative session, a bill was introduced to do raven control with aircraft. State wildlife officials did not show up to testify about their own survey.

Department of Wildlife officials knew this was a problem more than two decades ago and have done nothing on their own to correct this situation. Quite the contrary, they have fought against raven control. A sportsmen's group, Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, asked for and received $100,000 of Heritage Fund money for raven control. Department of Wildlife Director Ken Mayer fought against this proposal all the way. Does this sound like a director who wants to do something abut this serious problem?

Mr. Mayer was fired by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons for not doing anything about the declining deer numbers. By fighting the sage grouse proposals, Mr. Mayer and his predecessors have shown a lack of interest in solving the sage grouse problem, leaving the state facing serious repercussions if this bird is listed as threatened or endangered.

Cecil Fredi

Las Vegas

From the editor:  The writer is president of Hunter's Alert!

 

Reprinted from the Elko Daily Free Press -

ELKO — To save one bird, we might have to weed out another, according to many in Elko County.

Pat Laughlin, president of Nevada Alliance 4 Wildlife, a nonprofit group whose main focus is predator control, said the greatest threat to sage grouse is the raven.

He’s read studies, he said, that cite raven predation as high as 90 percent for why sage grouse nests fail. The sage grouse is under threat of being added to the endangered species list.

Around 2009, Laughlin’s group began applying for heritage fund grants through the Nevada Wildlife Commission to be spent on programs weeding out ravens and coyotes. Though it took some give-and-take negotiations, eventually funds were secured.

“I finally had to make a deal with (the Nevada Department of Wildlife) ... that they were going to have total control of the projects. Where the money was spent, where the work was done,” Laughlin said.

In addition to ceding control, Laughlin said, NDOW also pulled $5,000 per year for raven control and $10,000 per year for coyote control from the funds for the purpose of studying the animals.

“They were supposed to be monitoring and keeping track. To this day I haven’t heard anything,” Laughlin said.

Despite that, Laughlin’s group continued the projects until last month when suddenly the money was pulled.

“Their biggest reason was we weren’t getting the money on the ground fast enough and we weren’t getting the work done,” Laughlin said. “They thought we were doing an injustice to the sportsmen of Nevada.”

Laughlin had no reservation saying he believed NDOW’s reasons to be lies. But, according to NDOW Director Ken Mayer, the money was better spent elsewhere.

The U.S. has a treaty with Canada and Mexico which puts restrictions on the number of migratory birds killed — ravens included. NDOW requested an increase in raven permits, and in 2011, Fish and Wildlife authorized 4,265 ravens to be killed for the year. Only 3,062 ravens were killed, though, according to a June NDOW common raven kill project summary report.

“Therefore, Permit Authorization by USFWS does not appear to be a limiting factor for killing ravens in Nevada. Rather, unused permit authorization seems to be the result of limitations on permitees’ capacity to carry out the work,” the report states.

Even so, Mayer said he still hears requests for killing more ravens, some even asking to double the number.

“We are never going to get 10,000 birds,” Mayer said. “How do you kill that many?”

Laughlin said it could be done.

“You could take out as many birds out as you want,” he said. “He just has to request the work and it will get done.”

NDOW has a $400,000 pot of money allocated exclusively for predator control, generated from $3 of every hunting tag sold. To kill 2,000 ravens, Mayer said, it costs between $32,000 and $40,000.

NDOW has managed to spend the predator control money, but in Mayer’s estimation, more funds reserved to kill ravens isn’t necessary because of the cap.

“We’ve been spending that,” Mayer said. “I don’t know how much more I can spend.”

Over a three-year period, the Nevada Wildlife Commission authorized $382,000 of heritage program funds to be used for predator control, on top of what was available, Mayer said. The commission’s authorization was unnecessary, he said.

There is a chance the number of raven permits will increase, though.

At a recent Elko County Commission meeting, Jeff Williams summarized a letter submitted by Mayer which stated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would write a letter of support to increase the number of ravens allowed to be killed if a six-point raven control plan was implemented.

The plan calls for increased measures to control ravens’ access to garbage dumps, ranch carcasses, road kill and ground squirrel carcasses. The plan also addresses the need for better ground cover for grouse nests, and killing specific ravens, Williams said. Except, the plan doesn’t seem feasible to the commission.

“We have no control over a lot of that,” Williams said.

Regardless, the county commission has long said predator control is one of the most necessary steps to saving sage grouse. Mayer doesn’t entirely agree.

“They are the only ones I know of in the nation that are convinced of that,” he said.

When the Fish and Wildlife service prioritized threats to sage grouse, it listed predator control as number 12, Mayer said.

As Laughlin sees it, listing predation as the 12th priority is an oversight at best, and deliberate negligence at worst on the part of Fish and Wildlife.

Mayer was scheduled to attend last Thursday’s county commission meeting, but canceled the night before. When asked why, he said he was too busy.

 

Reprinted from the Las Vegas Review Journal

By Vin Suprynowicz

In 1988, hunters bought 51,011 deer hunting licenses in Nevada and harvested 26,784 mule deer.

In 2008, the Nevada Department of Wildlife sold 16,997 tags. Hunters bagged only 7,025 deer.

That's a huge decline. Where are the deer?

Oddly enough, whatever the problem is, it seems to affect only mule deer -- the species that generates most of the Department of Wildlife's revenue, when you consider that Uncle Sam matches deer tag revenue three-to-one.

Bighorn sheep populations are up. Antelope tags and harvests doubled over those same 20 years. Elk tags skyrocketed, from 182 to 2,723, with the elk harvest growing from 91 to 1,315.

It's hard to believe all those other species could thrive if the problem were drought or wildfires or fences or roads cutting off migration routes.

A state biologist says the apparent decline is due to cherry-picking 1988 as a starting point -- a wet year and a high point for the state's deer herd. Just six years earlier, for example, 23,053 hunters took only 11,954 deer in 1982. Current deer populations and harvests are only "slightly below" the historic average, according to Tony Wasley, the Nevada Department of Wildlife's expert on mule deer.

But a prominent hunting advocate, along with current and past members of the state Wildlife Commission, disagree. They paint a more ominous picture of a Californian re-appointed to head the agency as a political favor by Gov. Brian Sandoval after that same director, Ken Mayer, had been fired by former Gov. Jim Gibbons precisely for failing to take concrete steps to bring back a deer herd whose numbers have plunged so badly they may now be overestimated in pursuit of lucrative deer tag revenues.

They worry Mayer may have kept from his 27 years with California Fish & Game -- a state where mountain lions are experiencing a population explosion because they're no longer hunted, except when they take a jogger -- a reluctance to thin out predators, including lions and coyotes.

"For over two decades, NDOW has used 15 different excuses for Nevada's mule deer decline," argues activist Cecil Fredi of the group Hunter's Alert. "For the past few years, NDOW has used the habitat excuse. This is an excuse they can use for several more decades until their retirements kick in. It's hard to blame habitat when elk and deer occupy the same areas. Elk numbers have increased dramatically over the past two decades while deer numbers have dramatically declined," Fredi says. "The reason for this decline is that the main source of food for the mountain lion is the mule deer.

"Most biologists (but not NDOW's) believe that a lion will eat a deer a week," Fredi writes in a recent report with the attention-getting headline, "Nevada's deer will never recover." Fredi's main contention is that the state Department of Wildlife refuses to acknowledge any predator problem.

I called deer hunter and Wildlife Commissioner Scott Raine -- the immediate past chairman of the commission -- in Eureka, where he runs the town's only grocery, to ask him if Fredi's account is accurate.

"That's exactly correct," said Raine. "The mule deer population has just been crashing like a bomb in the past decade. They say, 'We don't know why it's happening, but it must be habitat.' When in doubt, blame the habitat. When you start talking about predation control, they don't even want to consider that part of the equation."

Gerald Lent, the now-retired Reno optometrist who chaired the Wildlife Commission for two years and served as vice chairman last year, but was not reappointed by Sandoval, recalls the commission approved spending $400,000 for predator control on mule deer and sage grouse. "Director Mayer fought against all these. He called the feds and shut down the sage grouse study."

Why would Mayer do that? "I don't know," says Lent. "He said the predator project to save the deer he wouldn't go along with. I think he's from California, where they outlaw predation projects."

I tried to reach Mayer for a response. He didn't return my calls, but delegated Wasley to answer my questions. Biologist Wasley says the very fact his position was created 2½ years ago demonstrates the department's commitment to maintaining the species.

"We have several predator control projects ongoing, and have spent millions of dollars in that arena," Wasley argues. "When we have removed a considerable number of predators, we have not been able to show any positive impact on game populations."

Lent has a different recollection. Under state law, "$3 per hunter is supposed to go to predator control. It's $300,000. So we put it into Area 014 west of the Gerlach Desert," Lent remembers. "The project was started in 2005 by (U.S.) Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services. From 2005 when they started, up till now, in the smallest deer management area in the state, they've taken probably 45 lions out of there, killed them. In 2005, the deer population was 850. This is out of NDOW's own book. Right now they estimate 1,400 deer there in 2011 -- that's a 65 percent increase in deer population. ... Right across the road in Area 015, that area is going down, down, down. There's no lion control in there. The lions kill a deer a week."

Mr. Wasley responds, "There was no significant difference in the area Dr. Lent is referring to in comparison to areas where there was an absence of predator control."

I asked Lent is he believes NDOW is inflating the numbers of the current deer herd, which state officials put at about 109,000. "Absolutely," he said. "They cannot prove the deer went up 2 percent from 107,000 to 109,000. The deer tag money is matched three-to-one federally. It's their cash cow."

He went on: "We had a predator conference that we had on the agenda. Ken Mayer brought in his buddies he used to work with down in California, and they basically said predation by mountain lions had no effect on the deer population, and that's not true. See, you can't hunt mountain lions in California, and I think that philosophy comes over the mountains."

Mr. Wasley defends the department's current estimate of 109,000 mule deer in Nevada, arguing that number is arrived at by tripling the deer seen from helicopters in aerial surveys. "So for somebody to suggest that it's as small as half of our published estimate, that would suggest that what we're seeing is close to 70 percent of the deer in the state, which simply is not the case. If the numbers were that small, we would begin to see hunter failure. ...

"I'm not under any constraint," Mr. Wasley says. "The director hasn't come down here and told me, 'We're not gonna kill lions, we're not gonna kill coyotes.' If there was a way that I knew we could increase mule deer, I would do it today, for selfish reasons. I love mule deer. I love to hunt mule deer. ... If there was something we could do to create more opportunity for Nevada's deer hunters, we'd do it."

Vin Suprynowicz is assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and author of the novel "The Black Arrow" and "Send in the Waco Killers." See www.vinsuprynowicz.com.

'11 May 17

NBU Distorts Truth

Written by Hunters Alert

The below quasi-factual e-mail has been circulating on the NBU website:

Yesterday the Nevada Wildlife Commission, under the leadership of Chairman Raine and Vice Chairman Lent, decided to reduce Mule Deer quotas in Hunts 1331, 1341 and 1371 by 25%, except in areas 04,05, 15,18 and 23 where the quotas will be reduced by10% below NDOW 2011 recommendations. This extreme action was done despite protests from NDOW staff, the County Advisory Boards, and the public. Commissioners McBeath, Cavin and Wallace fought for 4 hours with arguments including the fact that the Commission was violating it’s [sic] own policies, and with seven amendments, but in the end did not have sufficient support from the balance of the Commission to prevent the action. Just prior to the vote, Deputy Director Cates, at the request of Commissioner McBeath, estimated the loss in revenue to be about $600,000.

 

Here is the truth that NBU failed to print:

 

NBU should really check their facts before sending these posts out. Raine voted with McBeath on the final vote. The motion that passed was as amended by a motion vote made by Wallace. Wallace and Cavin voted on opposite sides of the final vote. Raine and Lent voted on opposite sides of the final vote. The Commission did not violate any policy, and cited a wide variety of scientific evidence including hundreds of graphs, charts, scientific documents with conflicting conclusions, and WAFWA publications that forced it to take the action it did to help preserve healthy deer herds in Nevada. True, the issue of funding was brought up by McBeath, and that did bring up speculation by a few Commissioners that some opposition against the cuts could be based on selling out long term deer herd health for short term cash gains. The action to reduce quota to levels similar to the quota levels of a few years ago has also been widely supported by members of the public who understand the mule deer issue.

In their rush to bash the Commission, did anyone bother to mention that the Commission was genuinely worried about the health of the mule deer population? Did anyone bother to mention that the junior hunt quota actually increased? What about the fact that the proposed 2011 quota recommendation was about 12% higher than 2010 quotas while the deer population was about flat (1.8% increase by NDOW statistics with a published +/-  factor of 20%).

The quota as set puts the quota about where it was a few years ago when the deer population was at a level estimated by NDOW to be similar to the current population, with similar buck to doe ratios.

The essence of the Wildlife Commission meeting is that finally some Wildlife Commissions had the audacity to stand up to NDOW. These Commissioners proved that NDOW’s science is flawed and that they have been managing deer for the money, something that HUNTER’S ALERT stated decades ago. Of course, Commissioners McBeath, Cavin and Wallace did not show any leadership in this matter.

 

 

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