California kicked off its annual bear-hunting season last Saturday, August 8, accompanied by protest from a wildlife protection group. Big Wildlife, an international wildlife advocacy organization, issued a press release last Friday “urging the California Department of Fish and Game to end bear hunting all together.”
Fish and Game, which has classified the black bear as a game mammal for more than 60 years, contends that management of the bear population, which has grown in recent years, is not a threat to the sustainability of the species in California. The department also holds to a “harvest quota” of 1,700 bears per season. The hunting season stretches to December, or until the quota has been reached.
Brian Vincent, Big Wildlife’s communications director, highlighted multiple reasons for his organization’s opposition to bear hunting, including the bears’ ecological value, the threat of poaching, and cruel and unethical hunting methods-such as “hounding,” in which hunters set dogs upon the bears to maul them before they are shot, and long painful deaths by bow and arrow. Ecologically, bears are great scavengers and their scat also distributes nutrients from the remains of fish, for example, contributing to the nutrient cycle.
“Bear hunting is bad news for bears,” Vincent said. “Instead of letting trophy hunters turn these magnificent animals into throw rugs by the fireplace, or a head on the wall, the agency should provide vigorous protection for bears.”
He also commented that one of Big Wildlife’s main goals was to “sound the alarm” about bear hunting in California, as few people are aware that it is legal.
According to Fish and Game, 56 bears were hunted in Santa Barbara County in the last five years.