Editor’s Update (2/2/2021): SB 252 was withdrawn this week. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic and other more pressing issues, Catie Stewart, a spokesperson for Sen. Wiener told The Sacramento Bee, “this isn’t the time to focus on this right now.”
However, the real catalyst that led Wiener to back off may have been the immense pressure he received from hunters and pro-2A advocates. In a few short days, more than 27,000 people signed a Change.org petition opposing Wiener’s ban on bear hunting.
A California senator has proposed a ban on bear hunting in the state, prompting backlash from people and hunters in the surrounding community. Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat largely representing San Francisco, introduced Senate Bill 252, “The Bear Protection Act” with an endorsement from the Humane Society of the United States.
While the bill leaves intact provisions for killing bear to protect people and property or for the advancement of science, it would criminalize bear hunting in general. Black bears are not endangered, in fact, the state’s population is booming, with an estimated 40,000 bears according to wildlife experts.
Despite the increasing encroachment of bear populations into human habitats across California, Weiner defended his bill, saying, “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,” he said. “It’s time we stop this inhumane practice once and for all.”
California currently issues 1,700 permits for bear per year, with wildlife officials petitioning the state to increase that number up 300 to as high as 2,000 per year. Wardens are warning that bear populations, particularly in the Lake Tahoe region, are some of the densest in the country, and they are becoming increasingly apathetic and even aggressive to human habitation.
The Rural County Representatives of California (RCRC) say it officially opposes Senate Bill 252.
“[The] RCRC believes there is no scientific basis or practical necessity for SB 252, particularly since black bear hunting is already regulated by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW),” the organization said in a statement. “In fact, CDFW data demonstrates that the black bear in California is flourishing, while rural communities struggle to control black bear populations to ensure the safety of their residents.”
“If SB 252 were to become law, RCRC member counties would be deprived of their only recourse for continual public safety through seasonal population control,” they added.
“In addition, RCRC member counties would have to navigate an often inefficient bureaucracy for obtaining depredation permits, and relying on insufficient actions by state and federal agencies to do the work that hunters have done capably in rural areas for centuries,” they continued.
California hunters should contact their state representatives and voice their opposition to SB 252.