The State of Nevada Department of Wildlife today settled a case in which it sought a temporary protection order against a bear advocate. State wildlife employee Heather Reich alleged that Incline Village resident Carolyn Stark harassed and stalked her, culminating in Stark following Reich in a vehicle while Reich was towing a bear trap.
The state said that when Stark closely pulled behind Reich that Stark’s behavior was threatening.
No so, argued Stark’s attorney, Stephanie Rice.
“We conceded that it could have been a frightening experience for her, but it was never intended by (my client to be threatening),” she said. “She didn’t pull in and slam on the brakes. It’s clear she was following the truck. She has a constitutional right to disagree with what the department does. She was following the trap to see if there was a bear in it.”
The state said that Stark’s action constituted harassment.
Judge Pierre Hascheff issued an initial temporary restraining order in October against Stark. A hearing in November failed to resolve the matter, so the restraining order was extended.
Hascheff noted that while Stark’s driving was “aggressive,” protection orders are meant “for bad people who threaten violence.”
Rice said Stark never intended any fear or harm. “Previous interactions (with wildlife officials) had been cordial, and Stark never threatened (anyone).
“She didn’t even know who was driving (the state vehicle),” Rice added.
Deputy Attorney General Bryan Stockton disputed Rice’s characterizations.
“She was following the trap, admitted it and followed (Reich) into the (NDOW) parking lot,” he said.
Hascheff mediated with both parties today to settle the issue. Stark can continue to go to bear trapping sites, but she must leave if Reich is there. She is not allowed to disclose locations of bear traps within an hour and a half of learning about their locations. She also agreed not to tailgate when driving.
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Both parties will report back to Hascheff in six months.
Stark is an administrator of a bear advocacy Facebook page, which is also subject to litigation. State bear biologist Carl Lackey sued Stark and others over comments made on the page that he alleged are threatening. That case is pending, but the state ethics commission chastised Lackey for running an online fundraising campaign to pay for his lawsuit.
The Ethics Commission said that Lackey, as a public employee, was not allowed to use his state title as part of his private lawsuit.
“Lackey’s conduct may be appropriately addressed through corrective action…” the commission determined. He was also ordered to complete an ethics course and to not withdraw the remaining funds from his GoFundMe campaign.