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Leash the proposal to allow black bear hunting with dogs

Another View
By: Richard J. Garcia, Black Bear Task Force
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The Sierra Club — California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee — Black Bear Task Force and the environmental law firm Chatten-Brown & Carstens have filed a letter opposing a California Department of Fish and Game proposal to expand the use of dogs in black bear hunting in California. If approved, Fish & Game’s proposal will increase the hounding of bears by dog packs, as well as expand black bear hunting into additional counties and increase the number of bears killed. Instead, the Black Bear Task Force has called upon the Commission to adopt regulations that require dogs be in the physical control of hunters at all times, as required by the Fish and Game Code. The Black Bear Task Force strongly opposes uncontrolled hounding of bears, a practice which results in gruesome injuries to bears and dogs. Cubs and mother bears with cubs are off-limits to hunting but are nonetheless pursued by uncontrolled dogs. When a bear fights them rather than runs, dogs may be killed or suffer serious head, limb and lung injuries. Although the Fish and Game Code requires that hunters maintain physical control over their dogs, the Fish & Game proposal will allow the use of GPS devices and tip-switches. These devices allow hunters to release dogs into the forest and wait nearby until the tip switch tells them a bear has been treed. Only then do the hunters follow the GPS signals to the dogs. Instead of increasing the hunter’s physical control over the pack, thereby reducing the risk of injury to dogs and bears, the Fish & Game proposal will allow hunters to abdicate control over their packs entirely. This proposal places dogs, bears, and entire forest ecosystems at risk. The use of off-leash dogs to hunt bears is the favored method of bear poachers, so making the practice easier will lead to more poaching. It’s time to put a leash on the cruel and unsportsmanlike use of uncontrolled dogs to hunt bears in California’s woods. While we are not objecting to ethical hunting methods, this particular form of hunting leads to painful injuries to dogs and to bears. Allowing dogs and bears to fight would be illegal under California’s animal cruelty laws if it occurred in a staged fight so it should not be allowed to occur during a hunt. Off-leash dog hunting can also lead to trespass and expanded poaching. For all these reasons off-leash hounding of bears should be prohibited once and for all. “California is one of only 17 states that allow the use of dogs to hunt bears. Even some states that allow dogs use in hunting bears require them to be on a leash,” said attorney Douglas Carstens of Chatten-Brown & Carstens, a Santa Monica law firm that specializes in environmental and natural resources law. California needs to implement its own laws to require the physical control of dogs at all times during a bear hunt. Richard J. Garcia is chairman of the California/Nevada Regional Conservation Committee, Black Bear Task Force