California’s Bear Hunting Season in the Crosshairs as Animal Rights Activists Continue to Target Predator Management in the West

Contact: Keely Hopkins, Pacific States Assistant Manager

  • At their February 16-17 meeting, the California Fish and Game Commission will hear Petition 2021-027 to eliminate all bear hunting in the state. This petition, submitted by the Humane Society of the United States, relies on unsubstantiated claims that misrepresent and contradict the sound population data used by wildlife professionals when determining science-based management policies.
  • This attack comes just weeks after animal rights activists pushed for a suspension of Washington’s Spring Bear Hunting Season and made unfounded requests to the Arizona Fish and Wildlife Commission to end to their spring bear hunt, amongst other proposed regulations.
  • The current, best available data clearly shows that California’s bear populations are at historic levels, with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) using real-time data to make annual harvest recommendations to the Commission that ensures California's black bear population is healthy and viable for the enjoyment and use of all Californians.

Why It Matters: Hunting bears is a part of California’s culture and 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.

As if on cue, animal rights activists have used the start of the New Year to launch a steady stream of attacks on science-based wildlife management and the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation in targeted states across the West. Already this year we’ve seen anti-hunting organizations set their sights on predator management in several states: from the suspension of the Spring Bear Hunting Season in Washington to a bill to ban mountain lion hunting in Colorado, and even an effort to hijack an Arizona Commission meeting to push to anti-hunting measures, the animal rights activists are going state by state with their incremental attempts to ban hunting—one method or species at a time.

With California next on their radar, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has submitted Petition 2021-027 to the California Fish and Game Commission to end all bear hunting in the state, utilizing unsubstantiated claims that contradict existing data. 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 CDFW 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.  

Just as we’ve seen in other states, the outdoor and conservation community is quickly mobilizing against these attacks and uniting in opposition. The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation has joined with national and in-state partners in submitting 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. Further information on how to participate in the Commission meeting on February 16-17 can be found here.

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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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