Ken Mayer was abruptly dismissed as Department of Wildlife director by Gibbons’ senior staff on Nov. 22. He was immediately hired by the Legislative Counsel Bureau to a temporary position in the research division.
On Tuesday, Sandoval named Mayer acting director of the wildlife agency, saying Mayer’s “wealth of experience and knowledge” make him a strong voice for the wildlife community. Mayer still must apply to hold the job permanently, which he said he will do.
Before he was fired, Mayer had been at odds with some members of the nine-member Wildlife Commission, a body appointed by the governor that sets wildlife management policy.
The commission in recent years has emphasized predator control and the killing of coyotes and mountain lions as key to restoring Nevada’s deer herds. Biologists have said loss of habitat is the main reason deer herds have been declining in the state and around the West.
Under state law, when the wildlife director position is vacant, the commission nominates candidates and a final appointment is made by the governor.
The director opening has not been posted since Mayer was fired, and no candidates have been named. But Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to the governor, notes there is “nothing in the statutes that requires the governor to accept any of the names submitted by the commission.”
Mayer attended a swearing-in ceremony for all cabinet members Tuesday and received a loud round of applause.
“I’m glad to be back,” he said.
Mayer told The Associated Press he is “just going to focus on doing the professional job I was put there to do.”
Mayer was appointed by Gibbons in 2007. Before that, he worked for the California Department of Fish and Game for 27 years, serving in a number of supervisory and executive positions in wildlife management. He is a certified wildlife biologist who has edited or written four books and more than two dozen scientific papers on wildlife and their habitats.
When contacted by the AP on Tuesday, commission chairman Scott Raine said he was unaware of Mayer’s rehiring.
“We worked with Ken Mayer before, we’ll work with him again if that’s what the governor wants,” Raine said.