Starting in 2010, the Nevada annual bear hunt uses dogs to chase bears up trees only to be shot down by hunters. The event is scheduled to take place on 15 September, which prompted activists to send a letter to the Nevada Department of Wildlife on 8 September.
Of the 10 hunting areas, eight of them have burned, are still burning, or are near an area affected by a wildfire.
The activists are focused on protecting bears partly because the animals don’t have access to the same amenities as humans. “Think of all the impacts on human communities, and all the hard work people have done to evacuate and to buy air filters for their homes and suffer with the smoke. Well, the bears are suffering everything we’re suffering without all those adaptations,” Patrick Donnelly, Nevada state director at the Center for Biological Diversity, told The Independent.
Local residents share the same sentiment as Donnelly. “I was able to evacuate and thankfully my home was saved. The bears aren’t so lucky,” Tobi Tyler, a resident of Lake Tahoe, said in a statement.
Residents like Tyler were forced to evacuate from the Lake Tahoe area because of the Caldor Fire, which has been burning for nearly a month.
While Donnelly said the bear hunt has always sparked controversy, this year’s fires make the request more urgent. Both California and Nevada declared a state of emergency, meaning the Nevada Department of Wildlife has the power to stop the event.
Last week, a black bear had to be euthanised after getting third-degree burns from the Caldor Fire. Other bears have been seen roaming the empty streets of South Lake Tahoe, looking for food and water.
Donnelly said that as the bears “are running for their lives” due to the fires, which are forcing them to migrate and be displaced from their homes.
Beyond bears, the American Veterinary Medical Association says that animals with respiratory or cardiovascular issues are especially vulnerable to smoke.
Higher temperatures and sustained droughts linked to the climate crisis are exacerbating wildfire seasons in California, and other regions of the US West.