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Let hounds loose on bears

A law barring hunting of animals with dogs should be vetoed

September 10, 2012|GEORGE SKELTON
  • Brian van der Brug
Brian van der Brug (m6ngn5pd20120817134043/600 )

IN SACRAMENTO — Admittedly I'm biased about bears. I don't think they're hunted enough in California. I say hunt them down with dogs. Hunt them with drones.

Maybe roll in the tanks.

I've awakened to this conclusion while watching brazen black bears grow out of control in this state.

They should be properly managed just like much of our wildlife: by hunting.

But they should be hunted humanely -- with hounds.

That's why Gov. Jerry Brown should veto a fuzzy-headed bill, SB 1221 by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), to outlaw the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats.

I'm ambivalent about bobcats. They're not terrorizing people and trashing homes as bears are.

Here are a couple of other outdoorsy suggestions for the governor. He should:

*Sign a bill, AB 1527 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada Flintridge), to prohibit people from openly carrying rifles and shotguns in malls, coffee shops and similar public places.

If gun worshipers won't use common sense voluntarily, the rest of us should force them to.

*Veto a bill, SB 1148 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills), that's rather fishy. Pun intended. It would seem to tilt the state away from planting family-oriented, self-sustaining rainbow trout -- as it historically has -- and toward trying to improve what remains of California's native fishery. Most planted rainbows would even have to be sterilized.

While he's at it, Brown might as well veto a companion bill, AB 2402 by Assemblyman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), that would change the name of the Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Save the cost of new stationery and a website redo.

More later on guns and trout.

Bears are wreaking havoc, especially in the mountains. They're not cute or cuddly. They're criminal and too coddled.

At Lake Tahoe, the bear burg that I'm most familiar with, the beasts have been crashing deck parties and grabbing appetizers. They're trashing homes looking for full-course meals. One recently was hanging out on a popular beach, perhaps waiting for a salmon run. She was poached.

We can't use our condo's heavy-duty, latched garbage can anymore. The bears have mastered it. Trash has to be toted 100 yards to a dumpster.

It's not like these marauders are endangered. Their California numbers have at least doubled, maybe tripled in the last 30 years and now total around 32,000, according to state biologists.

Their only predators are human hunters. The state allows just 1,700 bears to be killed each fall with a limit of one per hunter. Fewer than half are killed using dogs.

Here's one reason why hunting with hounds is the most humane way to take a bear: If dogs chase the animal up a tree, the hunter has a close-up, point-blank shot and a quick kill.

"It's literally lights out; the bear never knows what happened," says Josh Brones of Sacramento, who hunts bears with hounds. "We don't want to take a shot at a bear from long distance."

The dirty little secret every deer hunter knows is that shots fired at a running target from 200 yards away often miss their mark. The crippled buck may be mortally wounded but stumbles off into the woods to die miserably.

A deer hunter usually can follow the blood trail of his prey, but it's far more difficult with a bear, Brones says. That's because a bear's thick fat blocks the blood.

Another reason hunting with hounds is more humane: The dogs are trained to bark as they chase their quarry. That signals to the hunters where the dogs are -- but it also warns the hunted.

And once the bear is treed, hunters can clearly see the animal and be selective. If it's a big 400-pound male, shoot to kill. If it's a smaller female, spare it. She could have cubs nearby. Even if not, she'll probably be reproducing later.

"It's frowned upon in the hound-dogging community to shoot a female," Brones says. "If you kill that sow, you're going to be removing future bears."

If you're hunting without dogs, however, odds are you're not going to get close enough to tell the bear's gender.

Anyway, nobody has been able to explain why it's OK to hunt pheasants with dogs but not bears. The birds are cornered in bushes, the bears in trees.

The hound-ban bill passed both houses on predictably partisan votes, with most Democrats for it and most Republicans against.

Same with the gun bill.

The Legislature last year banned the open carrying of unloaded handguns for non-sporting purposes. How's anyone except the gun flaunter supposed to know whether the weapon is loaded?

Afterward, some clowns began carting around unloaded long guns, intimidating families and wasting the time of cops called to check out the silliness.

The trout legislation -- also supported by Democrats, opposed by Republicans -- has at least two red flags.

One is that there would be "significant costs, likely in the low millions of dollars annually," according to a Senate committee analysis. That inevitably would mean steeper fees for annual fishing licenses that already start at $45.

Second, there's this sterilization language: The F&G department "shall ensure that all trout stocked ... for recreational purposes are unable to reproduce."

There's an exception for planted fish that never, ever conceivably could meet up with a native and possibly mate.

This seems rather silly. Why should California's

1 million licensed anglers be paying extra to the state to produce sterile rainbows when the rainbows are perfectly capable of helping to reproduce themselves?

Let the fish spawn. Bears can catch them and be distracted from our garbage. Then summon the hounds.

--

george.skelton@latimes.com

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