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March 16, 2010

Experts Critical of Proposed California Bear Hunt Changes

Legal expert, biologist find significant flaws in proposed state bear hunting expansion

SACRAMENTO — A leading environmental attorney and wildlife biologist retained by wildlife protection organizations filed comments with the California Fish and Game Commission citing serious concerns with state proposals to expand bear hunting. In their comments to the commission, attorney Bill Yeates of Kenyon Yeates, LLP and biologist Rick Hopkins, Ph.D., said the California Department of Fish and Game's plans to increase hunting are unscientific and do not meet appropriate legal requirements.

Yeates and Hopkins represented their clients Big Wildlife, Los Padres ForestWatch and The Humane Society of the United States. The groups have each submitted further comments to the commission urging rejection of the agency's ill-advised expansion plans. The commission will discuss the CDFG proposals at its April 8 meeting in Monterey and is expected to vote during a phone meeting scheduled for April 21.

In January, the CDFG unveiled proposed changes to bear hunting regulations that would: allow an unlimited number of bears to be killed across California during the trophy hunting season; permit the use of high-tech global positioning equipment and "tip switches" on hound collars to make it easy to locate and kill a bear; open the first-ever bear hunting season in San Luis Obispo County and expand the trophy hunts in Modoc and Lassen counties; and significantly expand the hound training season, allowing hounds to harass bears nearly all year long.

"The commission should not go forward with the proposed changes to the bear hunting regulations because the department has failed to adequately disclose and analyze the significant adverse impacts on the environment associated with these changes as required by California Environmental Quality Act," Yeates said.

"The state proposals would make life unbearable for bears. If adopted, bears would have few places to hide in California," said Brian Vincent, communications director for Big Wildlife.

Specifically, Yeates and Hopkins said the CDFG proposals should be rejected because:

•  The agency had not adequately evaluated the environmental consequences of expanding bear hunting season and increasing the killing of bears for sport on local or regional bear populations.

•  The agency failed to evaluate the impacts of increased poaching of bears in California.

•  Expanding the areas where dogs may be used for pursuing bears and for dog training may increase trespass onto private lands.

•  Expanding the areas where dogs may be used may impact other wildlife species.

•  The agency failed to assess the unfair advantage of high-tech equipment such as GPS and "tip switches."

"Black bears are the iconic symbol of San Luis Obispo County's wilderness landscapes," said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres ForestWatch. "Once again, the department has failed to base their proposal on sound science." The department proposed a similar expansion plan last year that was met with strong opposition by local leaders, businesses and residents in San Luis Obispo County.

Also, on Friday a coalition of nearly 70 animal welfare, conservation, faith-based and community groups representing more than 3 million Californians submitted a letter urging the commission to reject the agency's plans. The groups signing on the letter include: American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, BEAR League, Big Wildlife, California Church IMPACT, Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club chapters, The Humane Society of the United States and many others.

"We find the department's proposals to expand the pursuit and harassment of black bears in California to be reckless, unsporting and totally unjustified," said Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The Humane Society of the United States. "The proposals can't withstand scientific or legal scrutiny, and thus should be scrapped."

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RESOURCES:

  • To read Mr. Yeates' letter to Commission, click here.
  • To read Dr. Hopkins' letter to Commission, click here.
  • To read the coalition letter, click here.
  • B-roll of video showing a typical bear hunt with hounds is available here.
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