Armed with data, the California Fish and Game Commission unanimously upheld the right to hunt black bears despite a petition from the Humane Society to ban it. In fact, biologists noted that there is actually evidence that black bear populations are increasing.
In multiple letters, the Humane Society contested that black bear populations may have been harmed in recent wildfires, that the hunting of bears has increased in recent years, and that the number of hunters in California has also spiked. After attacking the science used by the commission, the Human Society requested a suspension of bear hunting.
In response, state biologists produced multiple reports that evaluated every claim made by the Humane Society and categorically dismissed every one based on a more robust and detailed analysis of the situation.
In response to a claim from the Humane Society that incorrect, non-empirical data was used, the biologists replied, “The petition characterizes the current model as not ’empirical’ because it uses hunter harvest data. Data gathered by hunters is repeatable, verifiable, and reliable – it is, in short, empirical. Data derived from hunters is used for population estimation in numerous species, by virtually every state wildlife agency in the country. It is useful, meaningful data with a track record of generally good to excellent reliability.”
The report also noted that it is using the best available science and methods, including the use of wildlife cameras, new and updated modeling techniques, and “multi-pronged approaches” that help eliminate errors from single data sources.
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To summarize their findings, the state biologists made an official recommendation that the petition be denied.
“Our best available science, from multiple lines of evidence, points to an abundant and stable black bear population. Hunting affects only a small fraction of that population and serves as a management tool to provide key population monitoring data that cannot be easily obtained otherwise,” they wrote.
In speaking about the Humane Society’s petition, in particular, the biologists went on to say “there is no evidence that their (threats) effects on bears are sufficiently systemic and widespread to cause bear numbers to be falling so low as to justify a moratorium on bear hunting; there is abundant evidence to the contrary.”
As this account shows, unfounded talking points from interest groups like the Humane Society have the potential to change hunting access and privileges. It is unfortunate that personnel and resources that could be used to improve populations and habitats are hijacked to respond to baseless claims.