• Bearly Legal Malibu Opinion •
BY ANNE SOBLE
The runaway media flap over the out-of-state killing of a mountain lion by the California Fish and Game Commission chair has resulted in a newfound surge of energy in the local wildlife protection community. The realization of the solidarity among wildlife activists throughout the state is expected to encourage them to become more aggressive in the public policymaking process that relates to California's wildlife resources.
These activists are now taking a closer look at all sport hunting practices and are expected to try to make some changes in the laws now on the books that will be vociferously opposed by the ever declining—based on license and stamp purchases—sport hunting population.
The image of the hardy and independent country dweller hoisting a firearm over a shoulder and heading out with the trusty household canine companion to acquire the family's winter meat supply is a carryover from times past. The notion of the lone human against the elements has gone high-tech. Today's hunting can involve aircraft, GPS devices, a dozen radio-collared dogs and half as many handlers, and a "hunter" who often has paid a hefty fee to wear the title but usually does little more than pull the trigger on a frightened and cornered animal verging on collapse from exhaustion.
In this context, a measure was introduced in the California State Legislature last week that would prohibit hunters from using dogs to pursue bears and bobcats. A number of other states where bear hunting is legal do not allow the use of dogs, including Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Washington, according to the measure's sponsors.
Two Democratic state senators, Ted Lieu of Torrance and Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento, spearheaded the bill that has the support of the Humane Society of the United States and already has major state and national hunting lobbies scrambling to kill the measure.
SB 1221's supporters contend that hound hunting in the digital age is inhumane and is no longer fair sport. Pitting the hunter's skills in a match of wits with the wilderness has given way to mechanized slaughter that requires less skill than the typical carnival game.
Hunting proponents fear that this is another step in the process of the incremental banning of trophy hunting by one species and one context at a time, as it should be.
As part of this evolutionary change, the current effort to change the name of the state Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife is a reflection of the critical need to reflect the public mindset and protect species being threatened by habitat loss, poaching, rodenticides, and human fear and ignorance.
AB 2402 proposes this renaming and is currently up for review in the California State Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee. The suggested name change reflects the values of a majority of Malibuites, as well as the values of most residents throughout the state, that wildlife is not just a moving target.