Black Bear Hunting Suspension Proposal In California To Be Discussed At CDFW Meeting (Updated)

Last year, California state Senator Scott Wiener introduced legislation that would ban black bear hunting in California, despite protests from the hunting community given the healthy population of bears in the state. Since then, while the senator’s office withdrew the bill, the Humane Society has now taken the lead in pushing for the hunts to be stopped in the Golden State.

The proposal will be up for discussion at the California Fish and Game Commission on Feb. 17-18. Here’s more from the Sacramento Bee:

 “The harms from the recent wildfires on California’s bear population are currently unknown, as are the effects of hunting and poaching on California’s bear population, and the reason behind such a dramatic decline in the estimated population,” the Humane Society’s petition letter reads. It’s the second time in less than two years that the Humane Society has tried to ban black bear hunting in California, whose state flag features a now-extinct bear, the California grizzly.

Last spring, the group sponsored a bill by State Sen. Scott Wiener that would have permanently banned bear hunting statewide. At the time, Wiener’s office cited polling that showed bear hunting is unpopular among Californians. Nonetheless, the San Francisco Democrat quickly withdrew the bill after his office was bombarded with calls and emails from state and national hunting associations that had mobilized their members to oppose the ban.

Hunters argue that bear populations are more than healthy enough to withstand an annual hunting season. The hunters say that contrary to claims by animal welfare activists, who frame bear hunting as a cruel bloodsport for trophies, hunters eat the pork-like meat from bears they kill with rifles and archery equipment. They’re legally forbidden from wasting bear meat, and hunters can be cited for shooting female bears with cubs.

Another report, from Sacramento’s ABC-10 TV station, cited a state survey of black bear numbers in the state as part of the Humane Society’s argument:

Keefover , leader of the organization’s Wildlife Department in Native Carnivore Protection, said one key issue with the state’s hunting policies is the lack of a good census on black bears.

“The way they measure the population is through the number of bears that hunters killed and reported, and they model what they think the live population looks like,” she said. “But that’s just a completely erroneous way to do it.  You can’t… know what the live population looks like from dead bears.”

Fish and Wildlife maintains the black bear population continues growing past 30,000 to 40,000 bears statewide, as reported in the LA Times, and 30,387 bear hunting tags were sold for the 2020 bear season — a revenue increase of $136,890 from 2019.

Among the opposition to the request is from Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, which released the following statement and included the link to sign a petition for the state to dismiss the Humane Society’s push to eliminate black bear hunts in the state:

Stand up for black bear hunting in California!

The Fish & Game Commission in California will be considering a petition (2021-027) to eliminate the open hunting season for black bear at the next Commission meeting, February 16-17th. Sign our letter below to oppose closing the bear season and to support science-based management of wildlife in California!

The item will be heard on the second day of the meeting, February 17th. It is within agenda item 29 (29, B, III) and will likely be heard in the afternoon. The Commissioners will likely ask for folks who wish to make public comments on agenda items in 29 to raise their hand on Zoom, or they may go into each specific items in 29B and then ask for hands to be raised (it’s up to them to decide where to take comments depending on how many are wanting to participate). Make your voice heard! 

Make your voice heard at the next Commission meeting, and add your signature to our letter below to show that you oppose closing the bear hunting season and instead support allocating additional CDFW staff time and resources to the management of this iconic North American species.

Here’s a link to the agenda for the upcoming meeting, and here’s the information on the bear discussion:

  1. Petition 2021-027: Request to eliminate open hunting season for blackbear until the Department’s bear management plan is updated with threespecific components

Update: The comment period before the meeting has been extended:

The supplemental comment deadline for the February 16-17, 2022 meeting of the California Fish and Game Commission has been extended to 10:00 a.m. on Monday, February 14, 2022.