| SENATE COMMITTEE ON NATURAL RESOURCES AND WATER |
| Senator Fran Pavley, Chair|
|2011-2012 Regular Session|
BILL NO: SB 1221 HEARING DATE: April 24, 2012
AUTHOR: Lieu URGENCY: No
VERSION: March 26, 2012 CONSULTANT: Bill Craven
DUAL REFERRAL: No FISCAL: Yes
SUBJECT: Mammals: use of dogs to pursue bears and bobcats.
BACKGROUND AND EXISTING LAW
Big game mammals are defined in Section 3953 of the Fish and
Game Code as antelope, elk, deer, wild pig, bear and sheep.
Bobcats are considered "nongame" animals although there is a
hunting season and those with a license and a bobcat tag may
hunt bobcat. A five-bobcat limit exists in regulations of the
Fish and Game Commission (FGC).
Section 3960 of the Fish and Game Code establishes the criteria
for when dogs may be used to pursue big game mammals. Generally,
dogs may not be used during the closed season on such species,
to pursue any fully protected, rare, or endangered mammal at any
time, or to pursue any mammal in a game refuge or ecological
reserve where hunting is prohibited.
Department of Fish and Game (DFG) employees are authorized to
capture or kill any dog inflicting injury to any big game mammal
during the closed season that violates the above provision.
DFG employees are immune from civil or criminal liability as a
result of enforcement actions pursuant to this section.
Section 4756 of the Fish and Game Code allows hunters to use one
dog for hunting bear during deer season. It allows the use of an
unlimited number of dogs during bear season except when the
archery season for deer or regular deer season is open.
Section 3008 requires dogs to be under the physical control of
its owner or as authorized by regulations of the FGC. Those
regulations allow hunters to use radio telemetry devices, but
not GPS devices, on the dogs that are used to chase bears.
Section 597b of the Penal Code makes it a misdemeanor to cause
any animal to fight with any other type of animal for the
person's amusement or gain. There is no hunting exemption in
Sec. 597b, but there is little legal authority that connects
this prohibition with the state's hunting laws.
DFG reports that about 1,500 bears were killed in 2010 by
hunters in California. That number was 20% less than 2009.
Hunters are required to send an upper tooth to DFG for DNA
analysis. The total population of bears in CA was estimated by
DFG to be nearly 40,000, although the margin of error is nearly
8,000 bears. A revised statistical estimate reduced the
population to 30,000, although the margin of error remains high.
The take of bears has been declining, causing some to worry that
the population is not robust.
The bobcat population is estimated to be 70,000.
45% of the bears were killed with the use of dogs. About 11
percent of the bobcats killed in California in 2011 were killed
with the use of dogs. These figures do not include illegal take
The counties with the largest bear harvest are Siskiyou, Shasta,
Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Humboldt, and Mendocino.
There are about 25,000 bear hunters in California. There were
4500 bobcat tags sold in 2011 with a maximum number of
tags/hunter of 5.
Eighteen states allow bears to be hunted with the use of dogs.
Fourteen states, including states with similar hunting
traditions to California, have bear hunting without dogs. These
include Oregon, Washington, and Montana.
California has considered and rejected similar legislation in
1993 and 2003.
SB 1221 would prohibit the use of dogs for bear and bobcat
hunting. Hunters would still be able to hunt bears and bobcats
during the respective seasons for hunting these species. "Bears"
would be defined as any black bear, brown bear, or any other
subspecies of bear found in the wild in California. The bill
also adds a definition of "pursue" which defines what dogs would
no longer be permitted to do for a hunter: "Pursue" is defined
as "pursue, run or chase." The bill would not apply to the use
of dogs by law enforcement when pursuing bobcats or bears as
part of their official duties.
The bill would also repeal Section 4756 of the Fish and Game
Code that establishes times when a single dog can be used in
deer hunting versus when multiple dogs can be used.
ARGUMENTS IN SUPPORT
The lead supporting organization is the Humane Society of the
United States which is heading a large coalition of animal
welfare organizations. Additionally, the Committee has received
support letters from dozens of other organizations including
Sierra Club California and a record number of emails from
individuals. The main arguments of the author and other
supporters are as follows:
1. According to the author, hunting bears with dogs is cruel and
unsporting. He objects to the practice of releasing dogs
equipped with radio devices to chase bears or bobcats across
great distances, often across private property or public
property where no hunting is allowed.
2. As described by the author, at the end of the chase, the bear
or bobcat climbs a tree or fights with the dogs, at which point
the hunter can arrive and shoot the bear or bobcat.
3. One supporter from Shasta County wrote that wayward hounds
have attacked her cats, her poultry, her livestock and killed 14
deer near her home. There are other reports of dogs being lost
during hunts or injured or killed by their prey.
4. The author, as well as many of the supporters, point out that
a Mason-Dixon poll conducted in 2010 FGC was considering an
increase in the bear quota, indicated that 83% of the California
population opposes bear hunting with dogs.
5. The author and sponsors also have obtained numerous reports
that the dogs are often treated improperly, especially those
dogs which are rented from kennels that raise dogs for the
purpose of bear hounding.
6. The sponsors and other supporters are concerned that
historically bear hunting has been closely associated with
poaching or other enforcement problems for DFG. Correspondence
from former DFG wardens or federal wildlife agency personnel,
some of it going back to the 1980's but continuing to the
present, has been provided to the Committee. Some supporters
argue that a ban on hounding will reduce poaching.
7. Many of the supporters contend that the use of dogs is not
"fair chase." A small group of hunters have expressed this view
8. Hounding of large predators is not necessary for DFG's
species management purposes.
9. The old model of management of predators for sport hunting is
inconsistent with a more focused approach that would take
predators that actually cause damage. A more modern approach
would recognize the ecological value of top predators.
10. The incidence of human conflicts with bears or bobcats would
not be changed if there were a reduction in the sport take of
these species that relied on hounding.
11. Hounding has adverse consequences on non-target species such
as deer and other smaller mammals.
ARGUMENTS IN OPPOSITION
It seems that every hunting and sportsmen's organization is
united against this bill with the addition of a ranching
organization, one timber company, and the Siskiyou County Board
of Supervisors. The Committee also has a large stack of letters
and petitions with perhaps 1,000 or more individual signatures.
The main arguments of the opposition are as follows:
1. Bear hunting is necessary to minimize human-bear
2. Hunting with dogs is humane in the sense that the bear or
bobcat can be killed quickly.
3. The bill is simply an emotional attack on one type of
4. Hounding is necessary to meet DFG's management objectives for
native bears and that even with telemetry devices on dogs, the
bear population has increased over the last 40 years.
5. Hounders do not take the state's full quota of bears or
6. The use of dogs is part of a proud tradition of hunting and
is a very challenging and physically grueling endeavor. Dogs are
7. The bill is part of an aggressive anti-hunting agenda-an
attack on hunting by those who dislike it.
8. Hounding is the most effective method of hunting bears and
9. Hounding has been lawful since the state's first hunting laws
10. The Legislature should not overrule the Fish and Game
11. If there are unintended consequences from this ban, the
investment of time, money, and skill that is required to raise
dogs to hunt bears will not easily be replaced.
12. Bears are harmful to cattle and destroy young trees that are
important to the timber industry. This bill could lead to
increased predation by bears.
13. The bill would result in a significant loss of revenue to
DFG because of the loss of hunting tag sales.
Staff is not recommending any amendments at this time. If the
author considers possible amendments, the Committee would
request to be involved, and may need to re-hear the bill which
is the usual practice.
The Humane Society of the United States (Sponsor)
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
Animal Legal Defense Fund
Animal Rescue Team
Best Friends Animal Society
Born Free USA
Environmental Protection Information Center
Haven Humane Society
Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association
In Defense of Animals
Injured & Orphaned Wildlife
Klamath Forest Alliance
Lake Tahoe Humane Society
Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care
Last Chance for Animals
Last Chance for Animals
Lions tigers & Bears Big Cat Sanctuary and Rescue
Los Padres ForestWatch
Mountain Lion Foundation
Ohlone Humane Society
Ojai Wildlife League
Public Interest Coalition
San Diego Animal Advocates
San Francisco SPCA
Santa Clara County Activists for Animals
Santa Clara County Activists for Animals
Santa Cruz SPCA
Sierra Club - Kern-Kaweah Chapter
Sierra Club California
Sierra Wildlife Coalition
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles
State Humane Association of California
The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center
The League of Humane Voters, California Chapter
The Marin Humane Society
The Paw Project
Wildlife Rehabilitation and Release
Thousands of Individuals
Barnum Timber Company
California Cattlemen's Association
California Houndsmen for Conservation
California Outdoor Heritage Alliance
California Rifle and Pistol Association
California Sportsman's Lobby
California Waterfowl Association
Central California Sporting Dog Association
Modesto Houndsmen Association
National Shooting Sports Foundation
Outdoor Sportsmen's Coalition of California
Safari Club International
Shasta County Cattlemen's Association
Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors
U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance
Thousands of Individuals