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Category: Bears

Department of Fish and Game offers tips on staying safe in bear country

A young black bear foraging in the Falls Picnic Area caused the closure of parts of San Bernardino National Forest in 2009. Campers, anglers and hikers enjoying the outdoors may have encounters with wild animals -- including black bears, which are estimated to number 40,000 in California. Certain precautions can and should be taken when it comes to interaction with these omnivores, especially by limiting food odors that attract bears.

"Bears are constantly in search of easily obtainable food sources," said Marc Kenyon, California Department of Fish and Game statewide bear program coordinator. "A bear’s fate is almost always sealed once it associates human activity with potential food. It’s always unfortunate when a bear has to be killed because people either haven’t learned how to appropriately store food and trash, or simply don’t care."

The California Department of Fish and Game shares the following precautionary tips that should be taken when in bear country:

-- Keep a clean camp by cleaning up and storing food and garbage immediately after meals.

-- Never keep food in your tent. Instead, store food and toiletries in bear-proof containers or in an airtight container in the trunk of your vehicle.

-- Use bear-proof garbage cans whenever possible or store your garbage in a secure location with your food.

-- Don’t bury or burn excess food; bears will still be attracted to the residual smell.

-- Garbage should be packed out of camp if no trash receptacles are available.

-- While hiking, make noise to avoid a surprise encounter with a bear.

-- Keep a close watch on children and teach them what to do if they encounter a bear.

-- Never approach a bear, pick up a bear cub or attempt to attract a bear to your location; observe the animal and take pictures from afar.

-- If you encounter a bear, do not run; instead, face the animal, make noise and try to appear as large as possible.

-- If attacked, fight back; if a bear harms a person in any way, immediately call 911.

The Department of Fish and Game’s Keep Me Wild campaign was developed in part to address the increasing number of conflicts between black bears and people, and provides further tips for living and visiting safely in bear habitat.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: A young black bear foraging in the Falls Picnic Area caused the closure of parts of San Bernardino National Forest in 2009. Credit: California Department of Fish and Game  

Colorado officials unanimously approve regulation banning the hunting of denned bears

Black bear. The Colorado Wildlife Commission unanimously approved a regulation Thursday that bans the hunting or harassment of black bears in their dens.

The regulation was drafted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife following an incident in November in which hunter Richard Kendall of Craig, Colo., tracked a large black bear to a cave, entered the cave and killed the animal.

Although the killing of the 703-pound bear was legal -- Colorado hunting regulations did not prohibit hunting a bear in a den -- the incident sparked public outrage, generating angry emails and calls to state wildlife authorities.

Colorado Division of Wildlife Regulations Manager Brett Ackerman told the Colorado Wildlife Commission that the den-hunting ban was consistent with a primary objective of the division's strategic plan, which is to maintain and increase public support for wildlife and wildlife management by emphasizing safety and fair chase.

The new regulation will take effect July 1.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Black bear. Credit: Lynn Chamberlain / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources


Bear safety tips from 'Bear Whisperer' Steve Searles

Bear expert Steve Searles with a sleeping black bear outside Mammoth Lakes. With spring in full swing, hikers, campers and other outdoor enthusiasts are likely getting out and heading to local mountains and the Sierra Nevada. Also venturing out are black bears, which at this time of year begin to emerge from their dens for longer periods of time after their winter hibernation, meaning two things -- they're hungry, and many of the sows are with cubs.

With that in mind, Mammoth Lakes wildlife specialist Steve Searles, better known as the "Bear Whisperer," shares the following Q & A safety tips for those visiting and living in bear country:

Question: What should a person do if they see a bear on the trail?
Answer: Don't approach the animal, but don't run away, either. Enjoy the experience. If you don't have any food out, admire the animal from afar with binoculars or the zoom feature on a digital camera.

Q: And if the bear is close?
A: Make yourself look bigger by holding your hands above your head, bang pots together and yell at the animal. If everyone did that I wouldn't have a job. Bears are the best at reading body language and vocalization.

Q: What if there are children present?
A: A lot of the information out there says grab your kids and put them up on your shoulder. But this automatically sets an element of fear in the bear. Instead, keep young ones by your side.

Q: What about dogs?
A: All dogs bark at bears. And all bears run from dogs. If I had a penny for every poodle or Chihuahua that chased a bear I'd be rich. Bears are vegetarians -- they don't make a living on dogs and cats.

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Fish and Game Q&A: What's the limit when fishing catch and release?

An angler with a wild Klamath River steelhead that was soon released. In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: If I fish for trout using a barbless lure and catch five during the day but release them all, is that still considered my limit for the day?

Answer: Fish caught and immediately released do not count toward your daily bag limit unless the fish dies or is not released in a viable condition. If fish are not released, they are counted toward your limit whether you keep them or give them to someone else. Fish that are maintained and later released may also count toward the daily bag limit if they show signs of stress or other indicators they can not swim off in a viable condition. Keep in mind that any fish with a zero bag limit may not be retained or possessed at any time, so these fish must be released immediately no matter what condition they are in upon landing.

Q: I legally shot a black bear last year in California and then took it to a taxidermist in Nevada who was  going to create a bearskin rug for me. Somehow the taxidermist mistakenly gave my bear away to another customer and so then gave me a different bear rug to replace it. This wasn’t a good solution for me though because I don’t want this bearskin from an animal I didn’t take. Can I legally sell it since it was taken in another state? (Anonymous)

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Colorado approves draft regulations prohibiting hunting bears in their dens

A black bear peers through the brush. Colorado Wildlife Commission officials have approved the draft phase of regulations which, if passed, would prohibit the hunting of bears in their dens.

The commission approved the draft regulations at their meeting Thursday in Denver. The final vote will come at the May 5 meeting in Salida, Colo., and if approved will become effective July 1.

The den-hunting restriction proposal was drafted by the Colorado Division of Wildlife following an incident last November in which hunter Richard Kendall of Craig, Colo., tracked a large black bear to a cave, entered the cave and killed the animal.

Although the killing of the 703-pound bear was legal -- Colorado hunting regulations currently do not prohibit hunting a bear in a den -- the incident sparked public outrage, generating angry e-mails and calls to state wildlife authorities.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: A black bear peers through the brush. Credit: Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fish and Game Q&A: Can hunters sell their game for medicinal reasons?

Black_bear

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: If a person buys a hunting license and a bear tag and goes out and hunts a bear legally, then that bear belongs to that hunter. If that hunter takes all the usable parts of the bear, then those bear parts belong to that hunter. But if the bear and all the usable parts belong to the hunter, why can’t the hunter sell the parts of the bear to other cultures that use them for medicinal reasons? Why do Americans think they have the right to tell other cultures what they can and can’t use in their beliefs of medicine, as long as the animals are taken legally? Who knows, maybe they can find a cure for illnesses that we don’t have today. I am a legal and ethical hunter who is about to drive out of state for hunting because of all of the ridiculous laws, so please start thinking about changes in the laws in favor of making hunting more enjoyable for hunters.

-- James "Rufus" Smith

Answer: California Fish and Game laws are designed to protect and preserve California’s wildlife resources. Through the enactment of these laws, the Legislature grants people the privilege to take some species under very specific regulations but has prohibited certain acts that are considered a great threat to the species’ continued existence. Selling the pieces and parts of a bear is only one example of the threats that endanger California wildlife.

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Poacher receives two-year prison sentence, lifetime hunting ban for wasting game, other offenses

Black bear A Novato, Calif., man received a two-year prison sentence and had his hunting and fishing privileges revoked for life after he was convicted of bear poaching and other offenses.

The California Department of Fish and Game reports that Wayne Richard Barsch, 49, was already a two-strike felon when sentenced Feb. 4 by a Glenn County judge. Barch will also face an as-yet-undetermined fine.

The conviction is the result of a December 2010 incident, when Barsch was contacted by DFG warden Mike Beals in rural Glenn County. Beals was on a routine patrol when he encountered Barsch and two hunting partners attempting to process a black bear they had killed at least a day earlier.

Warden Beals found Barsch in possession of a .45-caliber handgun, and a check through DFG dispatch revealed Barsch was a convicted felon and had a restraining order against him, either of which would prevent him from being in possession of any firearm. Beals also found that Barsch had a bear head, four paws and the gall bladder, but only 15 pounds of bear meat, far less than what would be expected to come from a 200-pound animal. It is a crime in California to waste meat from any game animal. Barsch had also failed to tag the bear after killing it.

Since Barsch was on searchable probation, seven wardens went to his residence, where they discovered another bear gall bladder as well as a bear penis, head and five paws in his freezer.

Barsch will serve at least 85% of the two-year prison sentence. Because he was a two-strike felon, the courts may add to his prison sentence. And since California is part of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, an agreement that recognizes suspension of hunting, fishing and trapping licenses in member states, Barsch's lifetime hunting and fishing prohibition will be enforced elsewhere in the nation.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: Black bear. Credit: Lynn Chamberlain / Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

 

Colorado to draft regulations prohibiting hunting bears in their dens

A black bear peers through the brush. Colorado officials are drafting a regulation that, if passed, would prohibit the hunting of bears in their dens.

The state Wildlife Commission directed the Colorado Division of Wildlife to draft the regulation after an incident last November in which hunter Richard Kendall, of Craig, Colo., tracked a large black bear to a cave, entered the cave and killed the animal.

Although the killing of the 703-pound bear was legal -- Colorado hunting regulations currently do not prohibit hunting a bear in a den -- the incident sparked public outrage, generating angry e-mails and calls to state wildlife authorities.

On Wednesday, Division of Wildlife regulations manager Brett Ackerman told the commission at its January meeting that den-hunting is apparently not common among bear hunters. However, he said the division monitors issues that Colorado citizens may find do not meet public expectations of fair chase, and that this incident has generated significant negative public feedback.

Ackerman added that numerous other states have banned den-hunting on the grounds that it does not meet public expectations of fair chase.

Commission Chairman Tim Glenn said the panel considers regulations regarding hunting ethics on a case-by-case basis.

"We talked about the importance of fair chase for maintaining public trust in what we do," he said. "That is absolutely critical, so for what it's worth, I certainly think we do need to address this issue."

Several commissioners wondered if the issue could be addressed by closing bear hunting seasons earlier, before bears would be expected to enter hibernation. But others noted that weather, elevation and geography all factor in to the timing of bear denning, which varies across the state.

The draft regulation will be presented for consideration by the Wildlife Commission at its March meeting in Denver and could be approved by May.

-- Kelly Burgess
twitter.com/latimesoutposts

Photo: A black bear peers through the brush. Credit: Steve Hillebrand / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Fish and Game Q&A: Why are tags and licenses needed for hunting feral pigs?

Wild pig. In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: Please explain why the Department of Fish and Game requires a hunting license and tags to hunt and kill feral pigs. Feral pigs, as the name implies, are domestic pigs that have gone wild. They are an invasive species that destroy the environment and spread disease. Proper and responsible environmental management would mandate the eradication of this invasive species; yet DFG has a policy that discourages killing feral pigs by charging fees. Why is this? (Curtis A.)

Answer: DFG requires a valid license and tag to legally take a wild pig. According to DFG Wild Pig Program Coordinator Marc Kenyon, Fish and Game Code, section 4650 says that any free-ranging, non-domesticated pig is classified as a wild pig, and therefore is considered big game. DFG instituted the tagging requirement as a means to continuously monitor California’s wild-pig population. This information is used by DFG biologists, in concert with private and public landowners, to develop pig-management plans that are intended to protect cultural and natural resources from the damage wild pigs are known to cause. Without the wild-pig harvest report information, private and public land managers would lack the information necessary to develop these plans of action. Furthermore, the revenues generated by the sale of wild-pig tags are used by DFG to monitor disease transmission, evaluate environmental impacts of wild pigs and provide the public with additional hunting opportunities. Your participation in this process is greatly appreciated.

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Fish and Game Q&A: Is it legal to hunt sea ducks?

Surf scoters

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I would like to hunt sea ducks and target surf scoters this waterfowl season. Is this legal? If so, how does one know where it is legal to hunt from shore? Also, if hunting from a boat, I know the motor must not be utilized except to retrieve birds. What other guidelines are there for hunting from a boat? (Scott S.)

Answer: Surf scoters and other sea ducks are found along the entire coast, but hunting for them is more popular north of the Golden Gate Bridge in Northern California (such as Humboldt Bay) and in Oregon and Washington. According to Department of Fish and Game Northern California District Chief Mike Carion, hunting from shore is legal provided the shoreline is not private (unless you have permission to be there). It also must not be in an area covered by one of the numerous ecological reserves, marine reserves, state parks, etc., along the California coast. (Fish and Game Code Section 2016 gives the parameters).

The best thing for you to do is select an area where you’re interested in hunting and then contact some local hunting clubs or stores for specific tips and recommendations. Be sure the area allows for discharging of firearms and that you will not be hunting on private property or in one of the parks or reserves that do not allow for hunting.

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Fish and Game Q&A: Can scent attractants be considered bait?

Close view of a bull elk.

In support of the California Department of Fish and Game and its effort to keep hunters and anglers informed, Outposts, on Thursday or Friday, posts marine biologist Carrie Wilson's weekly Q&A column:

Question: I understand the baiting issue, but I would like clarification on deer and elk attractant scents, like "Tink’s" or "BuckBombs." There are also scents for bears, hogs and predators and I want to be in full compliance for whatever I’m hunting for. (Michael J., Mojave)

Answer: California Fish and Game Commission regulations do not specifically prohibit using the products you mention. However, the regulations do prohibit taking resident game birds and mammals within 400 yards of any baited area.

The definition of baited area is, ". . . any area where shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grains, salt or other feed whatsoever capable of luring, attracting, or enticing such birds or mammals is directly or indirectly placed, exposed, deposited, distributed or scattered, and such area shall remain a baited area for ten days following complete removal of all such corn, wheat or other grains, salt or other feed."

According to retired Department of Fish and Game Capt. Phil Nelms, scents sprayed into the air and allowed to disperse over a wide area in the wind generally do not fall within the definition of bait. Scent products that have to be applied directly to a surface such as a rock, tree or bush generally cause the game to come to that specific place, and if they feed on it, it is bait.

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California Fish and Game wardens in the spotlight on 'Wild Justice,' premiering Sunday on National Geographic Channel

California Department of Fish and Game wardens will be the focus of the upcoming series Wild Justice, premiering Sunday on the National Geographic Channel.

California Department of Fish and Game wardens certainly have an interesting work schedule. Dealing with illegal hunters, methamphetamine users, illegal pot growers and probation violators, it seems no two days are alike. 

These 240 law enforcement men and women patrol wide swaths of the state's 159,000 square miles of land, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 1,100 miles of coastline, often alone and in rural areas where backup can be hours away. And often, many of the people they come in contact with are armed.

The real-life bravery of California game wardens is brought to light in the new National Geographic Channel series "Wild Justice," premiering Sunday at 9 p.m. with two hourlong episodes before moving to its regular night and time, Wednesdays at 10 beginning Dec. 1.

The 11-episode series follows the lives of California’s Fish and Game wardens, on call 24/7, as they defend against human threats to the environment, endangered wildlife and the cultivation of illegal drugs.  On foot or horseback, by car or off-road vehicle, by plane or by boat, this small group of law enforcement officers covers a large territory in pursuit of poachers, polluters and illegal marijuana growers, while still making sure hunters and anglers follow the rules.

Though the show appears to focus on the "dirty" side of the job, it's not all trouble -- wardens also promote and coordinate hunter education programs and represent the DFG at schools and meetings of hunting and fishing clubs and other special interest groups.

"One thing about this job is that everything changes," DFG Warden Brian Boyd comments in one episode. "It's one reason why I like it and the reason some people don't like it, cause you can't set your clock to it."

"Wild Justice" episode descriptions through mid-December are after the jump (the rest of the descriptions are still pending):

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Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.



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