San Francisco Lawmaker Introduces Bill Looking to Ban Black Bear Hunting in California

by Will Shepard

A San Francisco lawmaker is introducing a bill to ban black bear hunting across California. Black bear populations are at the highest levels they’ve been at in decades. The bears are also creeping into more populated areas, creating havoc around.

On Monday, state Senator Scott Wiener proposed “The Bear Protection Act,” which is sponsored by the Humane Society. In a news release about the Bill, he explains why the bill is being proposed.

“Over the past few years, black bears have faced unprecedented habitat loss due to climate change and wildfires, and continued sport hunting in California makes survival an even tougher climb. It’s time we stop this inhumane practice once and for all.”

This legislation is going to create a major rift between animal rights activists and the hunting community. The hunting community sports a self-made flag with the extinct California grizzly bear on it.

The San Francisco lawmaker, in his bills, is citing a public poll that supports a ban on hunting black bears. He is also arguing that not hunting for bears won’t affect bear populations around local communities. Additionally, he says that hunting is impractical in a lot of areas because it is off-limits for hunters.

Around Lake Tahoe black bear populations have been soaring. This means, though, that black bears are becoming more aggressive around human developments. Human attacks are becoming more frequent as well.

California Black Bear Tags

Even though California hunters haven’t been able to make a dent in the black bear population, their population has more than doubled in the last four decades. According to state officials, the black bear population is now thought to be around 40,000 animals.

Black bears are certainly not a species of concern in California now. In fact, in 2011, California actually tried to raise the annual harvest number to 2,000. But the bill wasn’t passed.

Hunters across the state can buy an unlimited number of bear tags. Each tag costs a little under 50 dollars. But, if California reaches the 1,700 harvest quota, then the season is immediately ended.

Even though the limit is in place, California hunters haven’t been able to reach it yet. Last year, for example, hunters only got 919 black bears before the season closed. However, over 30,000 people bought licenses.

Hunting is an important part of California’s income. All in all, there are over 235,000 licensed hunters across the state. These hunters make up for roughly a quarter of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s budget. Bear tags alone generate well over one million dollars for the wildlife agency.

More importantly, the money goes back into wildlife management. Bill Gaines explains its importance to the state.

“Those dollars are used for (habitat) projects, research, and things that are critically important to the management of all big game species. So this would have serious impacts across the board.”

California Coping With Hunting Trophies

Animal rights activists have long been saying that people hunt black bears purely for the sport of it. While some people may do this, others depend on their meat.

As black bears eat a wide variety of things in their diet, their meat is incredibly flavorful. Weiner’s legislation targets bears as being a trophy hunt. Again, for some this may be true, but for a vast majority, it isn’t.

California has slowly been rolling new hunting legislation in to prevent hunters from targeting certain animals. In 2019, the state banned hunting for bobcats. The state also banned fur trapping of any sort.

While change is afoot in California, hunters are still very active across the state and are hopeful that it can remain.