Opinion: TOO HARD TO BEAR: Why does the Deapartment of Fish and Game want to expand bear hunting?

To Eric Loft, Chief, California Department of Fish and Game:

The effects on the statewide black bear population that shall be addressed in the April Environmental Document Regarding Bear Hunting include:

• Increasing the regulated annual harvest up to 2,500 bears;

• Incorporating portions of San Luis Obispo, Modoc, Lassen and Inyo counties into the black bear hunt zones;

• Eliminating the in-season closure mechanism;

• Altering the dog control use boundary;

• Modifying the dates for archery bear season.

This project will involve the killing of American black bears. Some members of the public may find this offensive and this project may have an emotional effect on them. Although the loss of an individual black bear is tragic, the department concluded in the 2004 Final Environmental Documents Regarding Bear Hunting that this activity does not constitute a substantial adverse effect on human beings.

We at Animal Rescue Team Inc. urge you to reject the proposal from the California Department of Fish and Game to expand bear hunting.

Please do not permit bears to be hunted by dogs, especially those with electronic global positioning system (GPS) devices.

There is nothing sporting about shooting a frightened black bear that has climbed a tree to elude barking hounds. This method of “hunting” is cruel, inhumane, barbaric and unethical.

The best decision would be to ban an increase in bear trophy hunts, as well as the use of dogs equipped with GPS devices. On some occasions, hunting dogs have been injured, resulting in death. Certainly, a no-win situation.

Recently Santa Barbara’s tri-county area has suffered near complete devastation of wildlife habitat due to five major wildfires. How does the state Department of Fish and Game justify an increase of selling bear tags from 1,700 to 2,500, and an additional 50 tags for trophy hunts?

Will the DFG also charge registration for each GPS dog used in treeing bears? What current scientific studies does the state DFG have to support an increase in bear tags, the use of GPS-tracking dogs, and trophy hunts?

We at Animal Rescue Team recognize that in many cases hunting is an important tool for wildlife management. Hunting gives resource managers a valuable tool to control populations of some species that might otherwise exceed the carrying capacity of their habitat and threaten the well-being of other wildlife species.

However, we strongly feel the use of electronic equipment (radio-telemetry devices on dogs) for bear hunting gives the hunter an unfair advantage and is, therefore, unethical. Pursuit of bears by dogs results in physiological stresses to bears that impacts individual bears and bear populations.

Please, not in our county.

The author is executive director of Animal Rescue Team Inc.

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