State Fish and Game director seeks to withdraw plan for bear hunt in SLO County

The director of the state Department of Fish and Game sent a letter to the Fish and Game Commission on Tuesday requesting that a proposal to expand black bear hunting to San Luis Obispo County be withdrawn.

In the letter, Director John McCamman said the department and commission have been unable to respond in writing, as required by law, to the “significant number” of public comments received on the proposed changes to bear hunting rules.

“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 said in the letter to commission executive director John Carlson.

The letter does not say whether the department will renew the proposed changes at a later date. The five-member commission was scheduled to discuss and possibly adopt the new bear hunting rules during a teleconference this morning.

With McCamman’s letter in hand, it is unlikely that the commissioners will make any changes to the bear hunting rules because they are unable to comply with the law to respond in writing to comments, said Brian Vincent, an activist with the anti-trophy-hunting group, Big Wildlife.

The state revises its mammal hunting rules every three years, and the proposal could be brought back at a later date, perhaps later this year, said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres Forest Watch, another environmental group. Kuyper said the department received more than 10,000 comments on the bear hunting rules, most in opposition.

“It is unclear what the department is going to do at this point,” he said.

This is the second time the Department of Fish and Game has proposed expanding bear hunting to San Luis Obispo County. A similar recommendation in 2009 was tabled for a year by the commission in the face of local opposition.

The department estimates that there are 1,067 black bears in the county, a robust enough population to sustain a hunt. Others, including the county Board of Supervisors, criticized the department for recommending expanding the hunt here without holding a local hearing for the public to comment.

The proposed rules would have also allowed bear hunters to expand their use of hunting dogs equipped with Global Positioning System collars.

Fish and Game officials were unavailable for comment.

Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.