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County hunt is too much to bear

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A controversial proposal to expand black bear hunting into San Luis Obispo County has been shelved indefinitely by the state Department of Fish and Game.

Wildlife biologists reportedly told the Fish and Game Commission more time is needed to nail down accurate bear population numbers for the Central Coast.

Jeff Kuyper, executive director of the environmental watchdog organization Los Padres Forest Watch, welcomed the department’s decision.

“We are pleased with the outcome,” Kuyper said. “We’ve been asking all along for complete population figures, and it finally appears the importance of that has sunk in.”

Kuyper said population studies up to this point—including “scent cans,” where cans of mackerel hung from trees help determine bear activity—proved the presence of bears in SLO County, but critics argued that such studies didn’t accurately measure how many bears there are.

“They essentially cut corners,”
Kuyper said.

Not everyone agrees. Arroyo Grande resident Richard Dasmann originally presented the proposal to the commission in 2008 and said he was confident in the methodology of the population study and its findings.

“Unfortunately, when they put the whole study together on paper, they made some errors, and that’s what caused this most recent shutdown,” Dasmann said. “If the experts aren’t allowed to regulate the different animal populations because of fear of lawsuits, then I think they really have a problem functioning.”

According to current figures, the county has a black bear population of roughly 1,000. Between 25,000 to 30,000 black bears are estimated to lumber around in more than 52,000 square miles in California.

The department originally announced plans to open the county to hunting in February 2009, only to postpone that decision amid public backlash in April 2010. Bruce Gibson was one of three county supervisors to write a letter to the commission opposing the hunting move.

 Gibson told New Times that “right-thinking prevailed” and he hoped the issue would not come up again.

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