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January 2, 2014

Fewer Bears Killed in California by Trophy Hunters During 2013

First hunting season prohibiting the use of hounds reduced suffering and death of wildlife and dogs

Approximately 40 percent fewer bears were killed by trophy hunters in 2013 than the annual average over the past ten years. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that this year’s August to December black bear hunting season resulted in 1,002 bears killed as compared to 1,962 last year. Doubtless this reduction was due at least in part to the fact that 2013 was the first year that California black bears were not harassed and cornered by packs of hounds thanks to legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012.

Senate Bill 1221, authored by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, prohibited hunters from releasing packs of unsupervised dogs into wilderness areas to chase bears – often for hours and over miles of terrain. CDFW reports reveal that about half of all bears killed in California during prior seasons were taken by hunters using hounds to chase exhausted bears up trees, so the hunter could arrive on the scene, take aim and kill the bear.

Jennifer Fearing, California senior state director for The HSUS said, “Unaided by unsporting and cruel methods, which jeopardize the well-being of dogs, non-target wildlife and bears, trophy hunters did not kill as many animals. In a state where wildlife watchers outnumber hunters by more than 17 to one and bear hunters by 250 to one, wildlife managers would be wise to countenance calm in the face of alarmist calls and remind Californians that keystone species like bears, mountain lions and wolves, play critical roles in maintaining complete ecosystems.”

Despite an uptick in the number of human-bear encounters over the past few years, black bear hunting is not effective at reducing conflicts with people. Hunters don’t kill the so-called “problem bears.” Instead, they target the largest bears who they want to hang on a wall or use as a throw rug, not the young males who are primarily responsible for conflicts.

CDFW has produced new brochures – available on their Keep Me Wild web site - to help homeowners, renters and campers make choices that promote peaceful living in California bear country.

Facts:

  • Some speculate that the high 2012 bear take was also driven by the legislation – with houndsmen taking advantage of the last season where dog use was legal in California.
  • California bears face many threats: from poaching and illegal commercialization, habitat alteration, human encroachment into wildlife areas, aggressive government lethal control programs and drought.
  • Hound hunting is an unnecessary and cruel practice, opposed by 83 percent of Californians, in which dogs are released to chase frightened wild animals often for miles, across all types of habitat, including forests, private property and into national parks. High‐tech radio devices fitted to the dogs’ collars allow bear and bobcat trophy hunters to follow the pursuit remotely. Dogs pursue their target until the exhausted animal climbs a tree to escape or turns to confront the dog pack. The trophy hunter then arrives on the scene and often shoots the animal off a tree branch at close range.
  • SB 1221 passed the Senate and Assembly with bi-partisan support in August 2012 and was signed by Gov. Brown in September 2012. The enactment of Senate Bill 1221 will bring California in line with 14 states – including Colorado, Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington – that prohibit use of dogs to chase and kill bears for trophy hunting.

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org

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