40% fewer bears killed in California by hunters in 2013, report says

This post has been updated, as indicated below.

About 40% fewer bears were killed in California by hunters in 2013, a change the Humane Society of the United States attributed to a new state law barring packs of unsupervised dogs while hunting.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife said 1,002 bears were killed during the 2013 black bear hunting season compared to 1,962 bears over the same period in 2012. That figure was about 40% lower than the annual state average over the last decade, the Humane Society said in statement issued Thursday.

[Updated 1:10 p.m. PST Jan. 2: California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Andrew Hughan said that while the number of bears killed by hunters in 2013 stands at 1,002 currently, the tally is incomplete. He said hunters have about a month to return their tags and other information to the department, and final data will not be available until late spring or early summer.

Hughan also said that an average of about 24,000 tags, which serve as permits to hunt bears, are sold per year. In 2013, he said, the department sold 23,094 as of Nov. 11.

Not every hunter who buys a tag is successful in bagging a bear.

“Hunting is on the decline, and we see a small decrease in hunting licenses and tags every year,” he said. “So this is not unexpected.”]

Humane Society officials attributed the reduction in part to a new state law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2012. Senate Bill 1221, authored by state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), prohibits hunters from releasing packs of unsupervised dogs into the wilderness to chase bears or bobcats.

In recent years, humans have increasingly come in contact with bears wandering through their neighborhoods. In 2012, the city of Glendale became captivated by a meatball-eating bear that repeatedly visited the area in search of food. A local resident later began a Twitter account and the city's float featured the ursine in this year's Rose Parade. 

Since the spring of 2012, bears have been spotted in the greater L.A. area near school playgrounds, alarmingly close to freeways and roaming through residential yards. Some have been tranquilized and returned to the forest. Others have been destroyed by state Fish and Wildlife wardens.

Black bear hunting is not effective at reducing conflicts with people, the Humane Society said. Hunters, they say, target the large bears, not the so-called "problem bears" which are believed to be responsible for conflicts.

[For the record 12:45 p.m. PST Jan. 3: An update to an earlier version of this post originally put the number of bear tags sold in 2013 at 18,904. Hughan said he became aware of more current data late Thursday that put the number of tags sold at 23,094 as of Nov. 11.]


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