May 2, 2022

California Commission Unanimously Votes to Reject HSUS Petition to Ban Bear Hunting

Article Contact: Keely Hopkins,

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Manager, Pacific Region 

Why it matters: Hunting bears is a part of California’s culture, heritage, and is an important part of CDFW’s ongoing hunting recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) efforts to maintain and increase the number of Californians in the outdoors. Continuing to harvest bears will not only provide CDFW with the important hunter harvest data necessary to ensure the long-term health of California’s black bear, but also the critical annual funding to perform that research as part of the American System of Conservation Funding, a unique “user-pays, public-benefits” structure.

The hunting-conservation community in California secured a sound win over the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on April 21 when the California Fish and Game Commission voted 4-0 to reject Petition 2021-027 to end all bear hunting in the state. In their petition, HSUS utilized unsubstantiated claims that contradict existing data. In rejecting the petition, the Commission stated: “Our best available science, from multiple lines of evidence, points to an abundant and stable black bear population. Hunting affects only a small fraction of that population and serves as a management tool to provide key population monitoring data that cannot be easily obtained otherwise.”

The current, best available data clearly shows that California’s bear populations are at historic levels. To ensure that hunting does not adversely impact California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) goal of maintaining a healthy black bear population, the Department annually monitors the bear population relative to a decision matrix which provides important safeguards to prevent any unexpected negative impacts. Using significant “real-time” data, CDFW makes annual harvest recommendations to the Commission which ensure California’s black bear population is healthy and viable for the enjoyment and use of all Californians.  

The outdoor and conservation community quickly mobilized against the HSUS petition and united in opposition. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation joined with national and in-state partners to submit a coalition letter to the California Fish and Game Commission to urge our strong opposition to a closure of bear hunting and to continue encouraging the Commission in their support of science-based wildlife management. CSF will continue to defend against ongoing efforts to restrict hunting, fishing, trapping and recreational shooting in the Golden State.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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