April 23, 2009
California Fish and Game Rejects Expansion of Black Bear Trophy Hunt
Proposed regulations would have allowed a trophy hunt of bears in San Luis Obispo County, where it is currently prohibited, and also would have allowed an unlimited number of bears to be killed in the state, in excess of the current statewide limits.
A broad coalition of more than 40 organizations, including The HSUS, submitted a letter to the CDFG earlier this month opposing changes to current bear hunting regulations.
Trophy hunting is a recreational pursuit enjoyed by a small percentage of Californians, but it is not an effective method of reducing bear-human conflicts. Research reveals that as the number of bears killed by hunters increases, the number of conflicts with bears increases accordingly.
Praise for The Decision
"Hunters pride themselves on adhering to tradition and strict bag limits, but these proposals were reckless and could have jeopardized the health and stability of California's black bears," said Megan Sewell, deputy manager for the Wildlife Abuse Campaign at The Humane Society of the United States.
"We commend state wildlife officials for retaining the current protections and limits on bear hunting, and rejecting this attempt to expand the killing of bears for their heads and hides," she continued.
The CDFG estimated that initiating a bear hunt in San Luis Obispo County would have resulted in 20 to 50 bears being killed. However, that number could have been significantly higher. The CDFG released no evidence that sufficient research had been conducted to determine the population size or structure in the area or what impact a trophy hunt might have on that bear population.
The CDFG also released no research to demonstrate what impact the proposal to allow trophy hunters to kill an unlimited number of bears across the state might have on the population.
In California, trophy hunters are permitted to use packs of dogs to find and chase bears until the animal attempts to escape into the safety of a tree. The trophy hunter can then arrive and shoot the bear down from the tree branch at point-blank range. However, frightened bears, or bears unwilling to be separated from their cubs, will often turn and fight the pack of dogs. A bear can maim or kill an entire pack of dogs with a few swipes.
Many hunters believe this practice is unfair and unsporting (see the video below).
California's Bear Hunt
- The CDFG's proposed changes to bear hunting regulations were stated as: "The project will expand the bear hunting area to include San Luis Obispo County. In addition, the project will eliminate early bear hunting season closure mechanism which specifies that the hunting season will end when 1,700 bears are reported taken by hunters or on the last Sunday in December, whichever comes first."
- California currently permits up to 1,700 black bears to be killed by hunters each year. An early bear hunting season closure mechanism is in place where the CDFG ends the hunt early when hunters reach this number.
- California is one of 17 states that permit black bears to be hunted with packs of dogs, a controversial practice criticized by many as unsporting.
- Bear hunting also has a large impact on bear cubs, who remain with their mothers for more than a year. Bear cubs nurse until fall and rely on their mothers for knowledge of natural food sources, protection from predators and warmth when hibernating.
- About 33,000 black bears are killed by trophy hunters each year in the United States.
- Trophy hunting is not an effective means of reducing bear-human conflicts and fails to target the so-called "problem" bears who may break into trashcans or trespass near homes. However, removing attractants like garbage and birdfeeders and using humane aversive conditioning have proven highly effective at reducing bear/human conflicts.
What You Can Do
If you live in California or another state that permits black bear hunts, you can take action to stop them.