Stop Expansion of Trophy Hunting of Black Bears in California

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Status: Current
Originally Posted: 23 March 2009

Stop Expansion of Trophy Hunting of Black Bears in California

From Brian Vincent, Big Wildlife

Send comments before April 19 to California Department of Fish and Game. Tell them to NOT adopt a new California State proposal that could dramatically increase the number of bears killed and expand bear hunting into additional areas including San Luis Obispo County.

Wildlife Branch
California Department of Fish and Game
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811
fax (916) 445-4048


Black Bear photo by Jim Robertson, Animals in the Wild

Last month, the California Department of Fish & Game (CDFG) announced two new, alarming proposals that could dramatically increase the number of black bears killed by trophy hunters in the state. Tragically, bear hunting – including the barbaric practice of pursuing bears with packs of radio-collared hounds, treeing, and then shooting them – is already legal in California. But now the CDFG plans to lift all numerical limits to bear hunting. Previously, the Department had closed bear "season" after 1,700 bears were reported killed. At the request of hunting lobbyists, the CDFG is proposing to lift this "closure mechanism" and permit an unlimited number of bears to be killed during hunting "season." The CDFG also plans to allow trophy hunting of black bears in San Luis Obispo County, California for the first time. The hunt could begin as early as this summer, with as many as fifty black bears being hunted and killed each year, primarily in the Los Padres National Forest.

Both proposals were announced as part of the CDFG's periodic revision of the state's Mammal Hunting Regulations. The bear hunt plans will be discussed at a California Fish & Game Commission's hearing on April 9 in Lodi, California. The commission will also accept public comments on both plans through April 20 and is expected to formally adopt the proposals during a teleconference on April 21.


Dear California Department of Fish and Game:

As a California resident, I vigorously oppose the California Department of Fish and Game’s (CDFG) proposals to lift all numerical limits to bear hunting throughout the state and expand trophy hunting of bears into San Luis Obispo County. Killing black bears for “sport” is unethical, cruel, wasteful, unnecessary, and scientifically indefensible.

The CDFG’s new proposals are deeply troubling because:

· Lifting all numerical limits to bear hunting could dramatically increase the number of bears killed by hunters across California.

· The CDFG’s continuing support of trophy hunting of black bears ignores the ecological values of bears. Apex species, such as bears, cougars, and wolves, play critical roles in maintaining ecosystems. Black bears often scavenge for food, playing an important role in recycling carrion. Bears also help transport berry seeds. Along salmon spawning streams, bear scat and the remains of fish carried into the woods contribute to the long-term nutrient cycle in old-growth forest. Even cambium feeding by bears, which sometimes kills trees, creates widely scattered snags that benefit other species of wildlife.

· The methods used to hunt black bears are cruel, unethical, and environmentally harmful. In California, black bears can be legally chased by hounds, treed, and then shot by hunters. Hounds have been known to pursue bears with cubs, increasing the risk that cubs could be separated from their mothers, then orphaned. It is not uncommon for hounds to maim bears, especially cubs. In California, bears can also be killed with bow and arrow, an especially inhumane method of hunting.

· The proposal fails to assess the cumulative impacts of poaching. Recent discoveries of black bear poaching operations in California call into question the CDFG's recommendation to allow bear hunting. Poaching of bears has increased nationwide, fueled by growing international market in bear parts. I understand because of California's deepening financial crisis as many as 45 percent of the states game wardens charged with enforcing laws to protect wildlife may soon be laid off. That would leave only 100 wardens to police the entire state. It makes no sense to expand hunting opportunities at the same time state wildlife law enforcement capabilities are being severely curtailed.

· The methods used to estimate black bear populations in San Luis Obispo County are not scientifically credible. I understand the CDFG conducted a two-year study on the San Luis Obispo County bear population. While that study – which involved hanging cans of fish from tree limbs, with monitors visiting the bait sites and recording signs of teeth marks or bear prints – may indicate where some bears are located, it is hardly a scientifically credible method for determining the number of bears and the composition of the bear population in the county. Other methods, such as radio telemetry and DNA analysis of hair or scat, are far more reliable for determining bear populations. I also feel very strongly that this issue should be discussed and decided at a hearing in San Luis Obispo County, not at a location hundreds of miles away from the area affected.

I urge the CDFG to not approve this expansion of bear hunting in California. Thank you.


PLEASE NOTE: While Big Wildlife is obviously troubled by these new proposals and is urging Californians to vigorously oppose them, our organization wants to make it clear that we oppose any trophy hunting of apex species, including bears, cougars, coyotes, and other predators. We believe trophy hunting of these animals is scientifically and morally indefensible.

Thank you for everything you do for animals!

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