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County bears survive another season

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For the second year in a row, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has shelved plans to expand black bear hunting into San Luis Obispo County.

At a scheduled meeting April 21, the DFG Commission voted 5-0 to indefinitely postpone the proposal in the face of widespread opposition.

On April 20, DFG Director John McCamman sent a letter to the Commission requesting the proposal be withdrawn, citing the department’s inability to respond to the “significant number” of public comments, as required by law, before adopting such a proposal.

“For this reason, coupled with the importance of moving forward with the balance of the mammal hunting regulation package generally, the department recommends that the commission make no changes at this time to the existing regulations governing bear hunting in California,” McCamman wrote.

The proposal was riddled with problems, said Jeff Kuyper, executive director for the environmental group Los Padres Forest Watch. For example, he said, the department estimated a black bear population of 1,067 in the county, but did so by overestimating the size of the county by approximately 1,500 square miles.

“Any time we make wildlife management decisions, it’s important they be based on the best available science and data, and that certainly didn’t occur here,” Kuyper told New Times.

“Sounds like good news to me,” said County Supervisor Bruce Gibson, who led the supervisors in opposition of the proposal March 16. “I can imagine there was a whole lot of public comment on this, and my guess was it was mostly negative. There are more important fish and game issues to deal with right now, and this was just not a good idea.”

The Commission will decide in May how to proceed with the proposal, but Kuyper is sure the proposal will be back, possibly before the year is up.

“The issues that we addressed in our comments were pretty significant,” Kuyper said. “It’s not one of those things where the department can just respond right away. They certainly have their work cut out for them, and I can’t see anything happening for several months, at least.”

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