UPDATE: The Sacramento Bee reported on Monday that the author of the bill is no longer pursuing this legislation. (Click here to read the story; subscription required.)
A state lawmaker introduced a bill this week that would ban bear hunting in California – a misguided effort to deprive more than 30,000 licensed California hunters of the opportunity to put bear meat on their families’ dinner tables, despite the fact that the bear population is the highest it has been in decades.
California Waterfowl is already working with its hunting, agricultural and conservation partners on a lobbying strategy against SB 252 by Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco.
The bill, sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, would arbitrarily ban the hunting of an abundant game species. California has one of the highest black bear populations of any state.
And it would take over $1.3 million in hunting revenue away from the Department of Fish and Wildlife each year. Bear tag monies fund a variety of wildlife conservation projects, including those that benefit other big game species like deer, elk and antelope.
Due to previous anti-hunting legislation that banned the use of dogs for pursuing bears, hunters no longer reach the tag quota, currently set at 1,700. This year, of the 30,388 tags issued, only 919 bears were killed by hunters. Many hunters buy bear tags ($49.94 for resident adult license-holders in 2020) just in case they see a bear while deer hunting – a fee they gladly pay, even knowing the odds of success are low.
Despite anti-hunters’ claims that bears are hunted only for “sport” and pursued only as trophies, hunters do in fact eat the bears they kill, in accordance with basic hunting ethics, an appreciation for the health value of wild game meat, and California’s wanton waste law. The law requires that “No person shall … at any time leave through carelessness or neglect any game mammal or game bird which is in his possession, or any portion of the flesh thereof usually eaten by humans, to go needlessly to waste.”
A press release (update – press release has been removed) by the lawmaker who introduced the bill states without any factual basis that recreational hunting has “endangered” the population. In fact, bear hunting is well regulated and the population has thrived under the current regulations.
Unfortunately, the introduction of this bill was foreseeable. When the Legislature banned bobcat hunting in 2019 – also without scientific basis – CWA told supporters, “That bobcat bill is of major concern because the Legislature now knows it can ban a type of hunting based on emotional considerations, not science, which is supposed to be the basis of wildlife management. We fully expect the Legislature to come after more types of hunting when it reconvenes in January, most likely bear and possibly dove as well.”
California Waterfowl will enlist the aid of its members and supporters in the fight against this bill. Sign up for CWA Action Alerts by clicking here. You can track this and other bills that CWA is sponsoring, supporting or opposing here.
Read an article in the Sacramento Bee about the bear-hunting ban here (subscription required).