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Research on Hound Hunting Commissioned by The Humane Society of the United States Confirms Harmful Consequences for Many Wildlife Species

Scientific Analysis Supports S.B. 1221, Legislation to Prohibit Bear and Bobcat Hound Hunting

New scientific findings by a leading conservation biologist support a ban on hound hunting of black bears and bobcats. Rick Hopkins, principal and senior conservation biologist for one of California’s foremost ecological consulting firms, shared his findings in a letter to Sen. Ted Lieu, D- Torrance, who recently introduced Senate Bill 1221 to prohibit the practice in California. The Senate Natural Resources Committee will hear testimony and vote on S.B. 1221 next week.

“In all known studies the presence of dogs produced adverse responses in wildlife,” Hopkins wrote in his analysis, which was commissioned by The Humane Society of the United States. “Dogs can have rather pronounced effect on numerous species, including killing of young black bears, bobcats and other species including cougar kittens. Off-leash and off-trail hounds are unpredictable and cause stress and flushing behavior in many wildlife species, including deer, birds, and small mammals.” 

Hopkins’ analysis found a number of serious concerns related to bear and bobcat hound hunting, including: 

  • The use of roaming dogs result in adverse impacts to target and non-target animals such as bear cubs or bobcat kittens, or other wildlife, particularly protected and sensitive wildlife species.
  • Black bear and bobcat hunting programs in California are recreational and do not provide effective means to reduce conflicts between predators and human interests.

“Dr. Hopkins’ scientific analysis is consistent with complaints by ranchers, private property owners, and animal sheltering agencies in California’s bear-hunting counties of decades of hounding-related problems,” said Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The HSUS. “It’s time for California to join the states that do not permit the reckless and inhumane practice of hounding.”


  • Hounding is an inhumane and unsporting practice where trophy hunters use packs of radio-collared dogs to chase down bears and bobcats before the hunter shoots the terrified animal off a tree branch. Dogs can be struck by vehicles, die from dehydration or as a result of violent confrontations with wildlife, and many are abandoned, which puts a strain on local animal shelters.
  • Bears are very poor distance runners and may tire and be overtaken by the dog pack. In bobcat hounding, the bobcat may stop and attempt to confront the dog pack leading to possible injury and death from the conflict for both the dogs and bobcat.
  • Fourteen states—including Montana, Colorado, Washington, Pennsylvania and Oregon—allow bear hunting but prohibit hounding. Montana’s wildlife management officials consider prohibiting hounding a feature of the state’s “fair chase” principles.
  • S.B. 1221 is co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, Sens. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco and Leland Yee, D-South San Francisco and Assemblymembers Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys, Mike Eng, D-Monterey Park, Paul Fong, D-Cupertino, Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada-Flintridge, Jose Solorio, D-Anaheim and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.
  • Thousands of Californians including wildlife advocates, ranchers, hunters and landowners have written or called in support of S.B. 1221, as have dozens of animal protection, wildlife rehabilitation and animal sheltering organizations including The HSUS, Sierra Club California, ASPCA, State Humane Association of California, the Bear League, and Wildcare. Hundreds of supporters and opponents are expected to attend the Senate Natural Resources Committee hearing on Tuesday, April 24, at 9 a.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol in Sacramento.  

Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 301-258-1491, stwining@humanesociety.org

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