Protests Of Proposed County Added Hunt in CA

CARE 2, Bear Hunting Magazine

Opposition to a proposed bear hunt in San Luis Obispo County is continuing to grow. County Supervisor Bruce Gibson wrote a letter to the California Fish and Game Commission voicing his strong opposition to the hunt, which could begin this fall.

He and several environmental groups, including Santa Barbara-based Los Padres Forest Watch, question whether the agency has enough data to justify a hunt in this county.

The commission will take public comment on the proposed hunt when it meets this Thursday in Lodi. It will vote on whether to approve the hunt when it meets via teleconference on April 21.

If approved, it would be the first time a black bear hunt is allowed in San Luis Obispo County. Doug Updike, the state Department of Fish and Games statewide bear program coordinator, said that Californias bear population has tripled over the past 25 years. There are as many as 30,000 bears in the state.

We have bears in as high a number as weve ever recorded, he said. Bears are doing extremely well.

There is no official estimate of how many bears are in the county, Updike said. The agency looked at a variety of factors to determine the status of the countys bear population, including the number of bears struck by cars and the number of nuisance complaints. The department also set out scented bait stations throughout the county over two recent seasons to attract bears. The bait stations are not accurate indicators of population, but they did demonstrate that bears are widely distributed in the county, Updike said.

The department also compared San Luis Obispo Countys bear statistics to those in Santa Barbara County and found them to be similar. Based on this comparison, 20 bears or more are likely to be taken by hunters in the county each year. In some years, San Luis Obispo County has more nuisance reports than Santa Barbara County and they have had a successful bear hunt for many years, Updike said.

Some environmental groups are also objecting to another proposed change in the states bear hunting rules. This proposal would eliminate the requirement that the annual bear hunt be closed once 1,700 animals have been harvested even if the planned hunting season is not over.

Closing the bear season early is expensive and unnecessary, Updike said. Hunters have to be notified by mail that the season has closed early. More than 1,700 bears are often taken even if the season is closed early, and this extra take is not evidently harming the population, he said.

Biologists monitor a variety of bear statistics that are indicative in the overall health of the population and will modify the hunt if they see signs that the population is stressed. From a population and ecological standpoint, the way we manage bear is pretty intensive and data rich, Updike said.

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