A California bill that would ban hunters from using hounds to hunt bears and bobcats took another step forward on Monday, as the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee voted 8-4 in a special hearing to pass Senate Bill 1221.
In a feeble attempt to arrive at a compromise, the committee did amend the bill to allow the California Fish and Game Commission to revisit any moratorium on hound hunting if there is a four-fifths vote by the commission to do so. Such a scenario is unlikely, however, given the current makeup of the commission.
The bill failed to pass the committee last week but was authorized for reconsideration, as several committee members either abstained or were not present for the initial vote.
The measure, which passed the California Senate by a 22-15 vote in May, now heads to the Assembly Appropriations Committee for consideration, likely in August.
Committee members voting in favor of SB 1221 were Chairman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), Bob Blumenfield (D-San Fernando Valley), Nora Campos (D-San Jose), Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), Mike Gatto (D-Burbank), Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), Ricardo Lara (D-South Gate), and Mariko Yamada (D-Davis).
Voting against SB 1221 were Assembly Members Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), Bill Berryhill (R-Stockton), Beth Gaines (R-Rocklin), and Brian W. Jones, (R-Santee).
Assembly Assistant Majority Whip Roger Hernández (D-San Gabriel Valley) abstained from voting.
SB 1221 is being sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest anti-hunting group. The group’s president, Wayne Pacelle, has threatened to launch a ballot initiative banning ALL bear and bobcat hunting in California if SB 1221 fails.
“NRA members and all other hunters must continue to be as active as possible in opposition to this ban,” said Darren La Sorte, NRA-ILA Manager of Hunting Policy. “It is no secret that HSUS’s goal is to incrementally outlaw all hunting. This is one step in that nefarious process and hunters who use other methods or pursue other species must understand that they will eventually be the target. Whether it’s obvious at this particular moment in time or not, we’ve all got a dog in this fight.”
This is not the first time HSUS has influenced bear management in California. In 2009 and 2010, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) tried to open bear hunting in San Luis Obispo County and remove the statewide bear harvest quota. Population figures supported DFG’s proposals, but they were withdrawn each year after encountering opposition from HSUS. In 2011, DFG proposed increasing the harvest quota from 1,700 to 2,000 bears. That proposal was also aborted over HSUS objections.
HSUS has previously tried to ban bear and bobcat hunting with dogs in 1993 and 2003.
State biologists estimate there are approximately 40,000 bears in California. California hunters killed 1,503 bears in 2010. Of that number, DFG says 45 percent were taken with the use of dogs. The unofficial 2011 bear harvest was 1,672.
As for bobcats, there are an estimated 70,000 of them in California. About 11 percent of the bobcats killed in California in 2011 were killed with the use of dogs.
SB 1221 continues to be opposed by NRA and other pro-hunting organizations. Hundreds of houndsmen gathered at the Capital on Monday and carried signs that read “HSUS is killing our wildlife one bill at a time. Vote no on SB 1221.” Many also wore pins saying “Revenge is not the answer. Vote no on SB 1221”—referencing the belief that HSUS sponsored SB 1221 as retaliation for its failed attempts to oust Fish and Game Commission President Dan Richards earlier this year.
Richards, one of the commission’s staunchest pro-hunting members, was assailed by HSUS and other anti-hunting groups for killing a mountain lion in Idaho. Mountain lion hunting is illegal in California—it was outlawed in 1990 by an HSUS-led voter referendum—but is legal in Idaho.
HSUS had hoped Richards’ removal would allow a replacement with animal rights ties to be appointed to the commission.
California hunters must halt HSUS’s advances in California before it’s too late by urging lawmakers to oppose SB 1221. Contact information for members of the Assembly Appropriations Committee can be found here.