California Looking To Up Harvest Numbers

California Dept. Of Fish & Game, Bear Hunting Magazine

The California Fish and Game Department officials stated that California's black bear population has quadrupled in the past 25 years. Because of this, they are drafting new rules that could increase the number of black bears killed by hunters each year in the state.

The proposals could also allow hunters for the first time to use global positioning system devices on the collars of hounds that they use to track bears, along with automatic triggers that alert hunters when their dogs have treed a bear.

State hunting managers say the rules, which would increase the current limit of 1,700 killed annually, would offer more people the opportunity to hunt and would not significantly affect the health or size of the overall black bear population in California, now at 38,000. The growing bear population also is increasingly causing problems, they note.

"There are more reported incidents of bears causing private property damage," said Doug Updike, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Fish and Game. "People are moving into bear habitat, and we have more bears that are more widely distributed. We are having more interactions between bears and people."

But animal rights groups promise to fight the proposed new rules, starting Thursday, February 4th when the state Fish and Game Commission holds a hearing in Sacramento. A final vote is expected April 21, 2010.

Under current state hunting laws, black bear hunting season in California begins in the fall and ends when hunters either report up to 1,700 black bears killed or on the last Sunday in December if that number was not reached before that date. On occasion, the annual number is larger, such as 2,028 bear in 2008, because of the lag time between kills and paperwork being completed.

The proposals from Fish and Game staff offers various options to increase the total quota, with one option suggesting it go to 2,500 killed a year, and another suggesting there be no limit set.

The proposal also would expand bear hunting into San Luis Obispo, Inyo, Modoc and Lassen counties. Although there is no bear hunting allowed in the Bay Area, it is legal in most of Northern California from Sacramento to the Oregon border, throughout the Sierra Nevada and across rural Southern California's mountains from the Santa Barbara area to San Bernardino.

Hunting groups support expanding bear hunting in California. "In places like South Lake Tahoe, bears are knocking down front doors and coming into cabins. It happened to a friend of ours. A bear opened his refrigerator," said Bill Gaines, president of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance. "The number of complaints about bears is off the charts."

Gaines noted that Fish and Game biologists have shown that even by expanding the number of animals killed, it will have no significant effect on the overall population, which the department estimates has grown from about 10,000 in the mid-1980s to about 38,000 today. "The regulations are based on solid science. We can't start managing our wildlife based on emotions," he stated.

Go Back