By TIM HEARDEN
SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Members of California's largest cattlemen's group plan to testify today against a pair of state bills that would affect how ranchers prevent bears and other predators from harming their livestock.
The California Cattlemen's Association opposes legislation that would make it illegal to chase down bears or bobcats with dogs or to trap animals under various circumstances, according to an organization newsletter.
The dog bill - Senate Bill 1221 by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance - would bar what the CCA calls a common practice among landowners seeking to manage property damage from what they see as an ever-growing population of bears.
"We think the use of hounds in chasing bears is actually a more humane way of dealing with a predator," said Margo Parks, the CCA's associate director of government relations. "We have a lot of members who have timber, and there's millions and millions of dollars' damage done to timber because of bears."
SB 1221 is being heard today in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. It is coauthored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrel Steinberg and has the backing of the Humane Society of the United States, whose president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, called hound hunting of bears "cruel and unsporting."
"It was the abuses associated with hunting with hounds that prompted California voters in 1990 to outlaw all trophy hunting of mountain lions," Pacelle said in a statement. "The same ethical issues are at work with bear and bobcat hunting."
Proponents of the bill object to the practice of dogs chasing bears up a tree, where they are shot by hunters. However, Parks argues having a clean shot at a bear is more humane than to shoot a bear as it's moving, in which case it could be only winged and suffer before dying.
Bears are known culprits in calf death losses and just their presence near a herd is known to cause undue stress on the cattle, the CCA argues.
The trapping bill by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, aims to prevent what she calls the most inhumane trapping practices. The bill is slated to be heard today in the Senate Water and Natural Resources Committee.
Senate Bill 1480 directs the state Department of Fish and Game to maintain a list of licensed trappers on its website, requires trappers to provide a written contract to consumers and "provides appropriate guidelines for trapping," Corbett said in a statement.
The CCA doesn't object to the intent of the bill, Parks said. But it would hinder landowners' ability to control beavers and muskrats by outlawing thoractic crushing and drowning, she said.
"A lot of ranchers have noticed damage to irrigation pipes" because of muskrats and beavers, Parks said. "The only way to control the pest is by putting the trap underwater.
"The reason that we've come out against these bills is that we've gotten numerous calls from members who are concerned about them," she said.
To read the bills and analyses and track their progress, visit leginfo.ca.gov