Legislation Introduced To Ban California Bear Hunts

California’s black bear hunting season is mostly concurrent with deer season dates in many of the state’s zones, and there is just a one-bear limit for hunters who purchase a license. Furthermore, cubs or females with cubs can not be taken. Still, a state senator has introduced legislation that would ban black bear hunting. Here’s Bay Area Senator Scott Wiener (D):

SACRAMENTO – Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) introduced SB 252, the Bear Protection Act. Currently the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) allows hunters to kill up to 1,700 black bears in a single season. This legislation would ban all sport hunting of black bears, while exempting situations in which bears can be killed to protect human safety, public property, livestock, and endangered and threatened species, and for scientific research. SB 252 is sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States.

Increasing stress due to climate change and wildfire-induced habitat loss has put a serious strain on California’s black bears, and recreational hunting has only further endangered the population. While habitat loss has created an uptick in human-bear conflicts in recent years, hunters rarely remove those problem bears from the population. Instead, they target non-offending bears in remote areas, far from where conflicts occur.

California has already implemented many protections for wildlife, including bans on the hound hunting of bears and bobcats, the hunting of mountain lions and bobcats, and all recreational trapping. A recent poll showed that 70 percent of California voters do not support sport hunting of black bears, and 62 percent would support legislation to ban the practice.

“Over the past few years, black bears have faced unprecedented habitat loss due to climate change and wildfires, and continued sport hunting in California makes survival an even tougher climb,” said Senator Wiener. “It’s time we stop this inhumane practice once and for all.”

“Californians deeply value the environment and have shown time and again that they don’t want to see their iconic wildlife slaughtered for sport,” said Sabrina Ashjian, California State Director for the Humane Society of the United States. “By passing The Bear Protection Act, California can cement its position as a leader in protecting our natural resources and spare thousands of California’s majestic and beloved black bears from a needless and unnecessary death.”

Sacramento Bee environmental writer Ryan Sabalow pointed out – among other arguments – that hunting license revenue plays a key role in supporting financial causes for the state’s fish and wildlife projects:

The state’s 235,000 licensed hunters play an outsized role in supporting habitat and wildlife. In California, around a quarter of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget is paid through hunting and fishing licenses and taxes on hunters’ firearms and gear.

Bear tags generated $1.39 million in revenue last year for the state’s wildlife agency. The money goes into a big game management fund that supports habitat preservation for bears and other species including deer, elk, pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep.

“Those dollars are used for (habitat) projects, research and things that are critically important to the management of all big game species,” said Bill Gaines, a lobbyist for various hunting causes. “So this would have serious impacts across the board.”