California State Senator Scott Weiner’s “Bear Protection Act” would have ended all hunting of black bears in California.
He withdrew the bill Monday after a vast opposition from wildlife managers, conservation organizations, and hunters back in 2021. But since we were neck-deep in pandemic news, this story got overlooked so we think it’s time to revisit the idea of scientifically managing bears.
Bear Trust International’s Executive Director Logan Young said his group strongly opposed the legislation as it was based “100 percent off emotion and had zero scientific data to back it up”.
“Sportsmen and conservationists rallied together to display the true biological facts and proven negative outcomes of what they were proposing. The right decision was made,” Young said.
Under a management system where hunting is one of the tools, black bear populations in California have increased from 10,000 in 1982 to 40,000 in 2021.
And that’s factoring in vastly more people and development that has eaten up their habitat in the last 40 years.
California officials tightly regulate bear hunting with a cap put on harvest annually based on surveys. Last year fewer than 1,000 bears were harvested.
As bear populations have grown in the Golden State, so has the issuance of depredation permits where state officials deem a bear can be terminated due to livestock attacks or dangerous behavior around people.
In 2018 (the last year stats were available), more than 300 depredation permits were issued, which is a full third of the usual harvest in the state. Banning hunting would certainly increase human-bear and livestock-bear conflicts, ending in more killing of bears.
Science should dictate wildlife management, and what California is doing now works.
I love bears.
In Texas, I started Texas Bear Aware, a program that raises awareness of black bears returning to the state in 2007. Through Texas Fish & Game magazine, we have distributed thousands of educational posters and worked with tens of thousands of wildlife class students on bear issues.
And it’s not so we can hunt them.
It will be a long time before these animals are ever at a huntable number in Texas unless some drastic migration happens. And it won’t.
Banning bear hunting where they are flourishing (300,000 in the Lower 48 and 600,000 in North America total) is pointless.
There are real bear issues right now that need looked at around the globe. In America, helping support wildlife overpasses like ones instituted in Colorado and Texas will save their lives.
More importantly, on a global level, species most American’s don’t know to exist are having real problems.
The world’s smallest bear, the sun bear, which lives in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia is a prime example.
These bears are listed as “vulnerable” by the IUCN, and there is great concern due to an increased market for their bile.
Traditional medicine adherents use the bile, and while most comes from bile farms where bears are kept in tiny cages and have their bile harvested from them in shocking ways, wild-caught bears replenish those that die (and they do so frequently).
Poachers also kill them for their claws and other parts, and they catch babies to sell as pets.
The sloth bear of India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal has had increasing issues in the human-conflict arena. Supporting education initiatives for the species from groups like Bear Trust International, for example, would do much to help them.
We support these actions and have used our media platforms to raise awareness throughout the world.
There are bears out there that need protecting, but they’re not in California. They need managed, and the current system is doing a great job of that.
No system is perfect, but when wildlife managers follow the North America Model of Conservation that allows hunting as a tool, wildlife flourishes.
And that’s precisely what bears are doing in California and starting to do in parts of Texas as well.