Calaveras County is officially against laws that would prohibit the use of dogs in hunting bears and bobcats.
County supervisors agreed in a 4-0 vote, with Supervisor Darren Spellman abstaining, to send a letter to Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, the sponsor of Senate Bill 1221, stating the law would have unfortunate consequences for the county if it passes.
“Hunting with dogs is a tool for wildlife management and allows for timely, effective action to resolve incidents involving threats to livestock and/or public safety. Senate Bill 1221 as proposed will limit ranchers’ ability to protect their livestock and manage bear populations,” the letter signed by board Chairman Gary Tofanelli reads. “It will eliminate an effective and efficient management tool and likely result in more encounters with bears and bobcats. If this bill is enacted, it will reduce the economic benefits enjoyed by not only Calaveras County but many other rural communities that share in increased local revenues as a result of sportsmen travelling (sic) to our communities for the purpose of recreation.”
The letter was copied to Sen. Ted Gaines, R-Rocklin, who represents Calaveras in the State Senate, and the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“The hound hunter is a real good tool to control the bear population and improve the economy of the state of California,” said Joe Duncan, of Sonora.
Duncan regularly takes his English hounds into the Stanislaus National Forest during bear season and has been lobbying county governments, particularly in rural areas, to stand up in opposition to the legislation. He said thus far 27 counties have agreed to oppose the bill.
Duncan estimates that he spends as much as $3,700 every season for fuel, food and other amenities for his trips around Cherry Lake or near the Clavey River. He said dogs were used in 45 percent of successful bear hunts in the state. Duncan added that the county will lose as much as $277,000 in revenue from hunters spending money locally on gas, restaurant sales and supplies.
The proposal is supported by the U.S. Humane Society, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Sierra Club California. Its proponents have deemed the practice cruel and point to Oregon and Montana as states that have outlawed hounding.
“I view this as an anti-hunting bill. Bears, mountain lions, etc. have very few natural predators,” Supervisor Tom Tryon said. “These hounds are working dogs, in my opinion, that serve a purpose.”
Supervisors Merita Callaway and Gary Tofanelli each said they had difficulty wrestling with the issue. Callaway said she sought opinions from members of the Calaveras Humane Society and that they viewed it as “a non-issue.” Tofanelli said he reached the conclusion the bill constituted “unnecessary regulation.”
Supervisor Steve Wilensky emphasized the Calaveras Humane Society is not affiliated with the bill’s lead backer, the U.S. Humane Society, before agreeing to support the opposition.
“It’s a practical, local issue that needs to be addressed,” Wilensky said.
Spellman said he would abstain because “this is something the government should not be involved in, whether you can or can’t use dogs … the government shouldn’t have the ability to give or take away the right to hunt.”
“It’s really a no-win,” he said. “People on both sides (of the issue) have adamant reason. They both seem to have a degree of logic in their reasoning.”