Hunting bear and bobcat with dogs banned in California

Skye Kinkade

A law that bans the hunting of bear and bobcat with the use of hounds was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown yesterday.

While the Humane Society of the United States hails the passing of Senate Bill 1221 as "huge news," local hunters are lamenting the impending loss of their hobby.

The ban goes into effect Jan. 1.

"I applaud Governor Brown for signing this measure that will protect dogs, bears, bobcats and other wildlife," said the bill's author, Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) in a statement released Sept. 26 soon after SB 1221 was signed. "There is nothing sporting in shooting an exhausted bear clinging to a tree limb or a cornered bobcat. Hound hunting of bears is illegal in two-thirds of the United States. California now joins the great majority of states that have abolished this inhumane and unnecessary practice."

Assemblyman Jim Nielsen expressed disappointment over Brown's decision to sign the bill a statement released yesterday, calling it an example of "another piece of culture and heritage being stripped away."

"Hunting in California will suffer from this unnecessary and costly piece of legislation," said Nielsen. "I have received thousands of phone calls and letters from my constituents as well as from people all over California. They are all worried about how this bill will infringe on their tradition and culture. I share their concerns and I am deeply disappointed that the Governor has chosen to sign this into law."

Nielsen said by enacting this bill, the Department of Fish and Game estimates a loss of $278,000 annually from reduced bear and bobcat tag purchases; as well as a potential increase of $250,000 annually needed to develop and implement a new monitoring program in controlling the black bear and bobcat population.

"It is disgusting that at a time when the state budget is in a deep hole, when criminals are being released to our streets, that the Legislature and the Governor would spend even one minute on a bill like this," said Nielsen.

"The curtain will soon come down on the bloodsport of 'hounding,'" said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the US, which sponsored SB 1221. "It is the right policy for California. Tens of thousands of citizens demanded this long overdue animal welfare reform, and today they won it."

According to the California Department of Fish and Game, 5,200 hunters use hounds in California today. State officials estimate they took less than half of the nearly 1,600 black bears killed in the state last year and fewer than 20 percent of the 1,195 bobcats.

State biologists say the population of black bears has increased in recent decades, to about 32,000 now, and the population of bobcats also appears to be flourishing, according to the DFG.

The Siskiyou Humane Society in Mount Shasta has no affiliation with the Humane Society of the US and receives no funding from them, said SHS shelter manager Kim Latos. The local Humane Society and shelter are operated solely on donations and revenue from the Paws and Shop Thrift Stores in Mount Shasta and Yreka.