California’s ban on hunting bears with dogs has apparently drawn immediate results. Accordingly to preliminary information, the 2013 season resulted in the lowest number of bears harvested in nearly two decades.
Hunting larger game with hounds is sometimes a contentious issue, even among sportsmen. Critics of the practice say that hunting with hounds is unsportsmanlike, dangerous for the canines involved, and too easy. Bears are large and powerful creatures, and although they will often flee after encountering a dog, on rare occasions bears can cause grievous harm to hounds.
Hunters who use dogs, however, say there are many benefits that are often overlooked. In their opinion, hunting with hounds frequently leads to more accurate shots and less wounding hits, as well as the effective tracking and identification of game animals. The Los Angeles Times reported in a 2012 article that nearly 45 percent of bears taken in California were harvested by houndsmen. That statistic provides some insight on the low number of bears harvested in 2013, nearly half of what hunters accounted for in the previous year.
According to The Sacramento Bee, California hunters took 1,002 bears last year compared to 1,962 bears in 2012. There is very little doubt among wildlife officials and hunters that the 48 percent decrease was caused by the ban. Regardless of their opinions on hunting with hounds, many sportsmen are concerned by the year’s low harvest rate.
“You’re going to start having property damage, people killed,” California Houndsmen for Conservation (CHC) president Lori Jacobs told the Bee. “The black bear population in California is already out of control.”
The CHC claims that the use of hounds is one of the most successful forms of bear hunting and is an important tool in controlling the bear population. Many houndsmen believe that the ban is an effort by animal rights activists to restrict hunting opportunities.
“The use of hounds is the oldest, most fundamental, and most natural form of hunting,” CHC states on its website. “Its essence is the interaction between the houndsman, the dog, and the animal they are pursuing.”
The law banning the use of hounds was passed in 2012, but first took effect in 2013.