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June 12, 2012

Department of Fish and Game Law Enforcement Reports Show Shocking Volume of Wildlife Crime in California

New analysis by The Humane Society of the United States reveals that hounding-related activity is a significant drain on law enforcement resources

The Humane Society of the United States conducted an analysis of California Department of Fish and Game law enforcement reports from 2007-2012 and found more than 500 incidents related to illegal hounding activities and bear and bobcat poaching. The findings were released at California Humane Lobby Day 2012, which included a press conference and rally at the Capitol.

The poaching incidents included killing bears to illegally sell parts of the animals on the black market, running too many hounds, trespassing, poaching bear cubs and bobcat kittens, hounds attacking livestock and cruelty to hounds. Many of the poaching incidents were also associated with narcotics charges and other illegal activity by houndsmen with prior felony convictions. The findings dramatically strengthen the case for a ban on hound hunting of black bears and bobcats, a practice that allows dogs to harass and chase bears for miles so that a trophy hunter can finish off the exhausted and frightened animal by shooting it out of a tree.

“These reports reveal the shocking lawlessness associated with hounding. California has the lowest number of wardens per capita of any state and a significant portion of their time is spent chasing down these poachers and their ilk,” said Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director.  “For the sake of California’s wildlife, dogs and law-and-order, hounding has to be stopped.”

Senate Bill 1221, authored by Sen. Ted W. Lieu, D-Torrance, would prohibit the “hounding” of bears and bobcats. It has passed the Senate and is pending in the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee. Attendees of Humane Lobby Day to urged legislators to support S.B. 1221, and speakers at the rally included: Sen. Lieu; Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield, D-Van Nuys; Assemblymember Paul Fong, D-Cupertino; Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The HSUS; and Nancy Perry, senior vice president of ASPCA Government Relations.

Examples from the reports include:

  • A case of houndsmen illegally baiting bears as indicated by a large pool of blood where a dead hound was strategically placed to attract bears to the area. The wardens found the dog’s carcass eviscerated by another animal.
  • A hound tied to debris and abandoned.
  • The body of a small bear cub with all four paws cut off and gall bladder removed, found on a picnic table, deliberately arranged in a disturbing manner.
  • A group of houndsmen caught illegally baiting for bears. Among those apprehended were a convicted sex offender, multiple felons illegally possessing firearms, and another with a prior conviction for selling bear parts.
  • Poached bear cubs with their heads chopped off and illegal bait at the scene.
  • A bear cub shot and then placed on the railroad tracks where a passing train cut the body in half.
  • A houndsman wanted on a felony warrant was arrested while under the influence of methamphetamines.
  • A houndsman found in possession of illegal bear gall bladders.
  • A poaching case involving bear claws and skulls, marijuana cultivation and a suspect with a six-state felony conviction record.
  • An individual charged with deer poaching was identified as killing his dog, claiming "it wasn't worth a darn," and tossing the dead dog into a river.

View the full list of incidents here.

Background:

  • S.B. 1221 would stop the cruel and unsporting practice of allowing packs of radio-collared hound dogs to chase bears and bobcats so hunters, following with radio detection receivers, can shoot the animals at close range.The bill will be heard next by the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee on June 12.
  • S.B. 1221 is co-authored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-6, Sens. Mark Leno, D-3, and Leland Yee, D-8, and Assemblymembers Toni Atkins, D-76, Bob Blumenfield, D-40, Mike Eng, D-49, Paul Fong, D-22, Jerry Hill, D-19, Anthony Portantino, D-44, Jose Solorio, D-69, and Das Williams, D-35.
  • 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.
  • California is facing an unprecedented assault on wildlife. The state has about 300 game wardens. Today, that amounts to approximately one warden for every 180,000 people. Meanwhile, Fish and Game Enforcement Branch citations rose nearly 70 percent between 2000 and 2009 while hunting violations rose 225 percent during the same period.
  • The HSUS runs a nationwide anti-poaching program where it works with state and federal law enforcement agencies to combat poaching. For the past several years, The HSUS has donated funds toward food and veterinary care for several dogs rescued from shelters and trained to assist wardens. The HSUS also started the California Anti-Poaching Action Network, a citizen-based effort to support the work of wardens, and offers rewards for information leading to arrest and conviction of the perpetrators of poaching crimes.

Media Contact: Stephanie Twining, 240-751-3943, stwining@humanesociety.org

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