Conservation and Management
The Department strives to conserve and maintain viable healthy black bear populations in California. To meet this goal, staff and our partners work to:
- Provide for the beneficial use and enjoyment of wildlife by all citizens of the state;
- Perpetuate all species for their intrinsic and ecological values;
- Provide for aesthetic, educational, and non appropriative uses;
- Maintain diversified recreational uses of wildlife including sport hunting;
- Provide for economic contributions to the citizens of the state through the recognition that wildlife is a renewable resource, and;
- Alleviate economic losses or public health and safety problems caused by wildlife.
California's black bear population has increased over the past few decades. In 1982, the statewide population was estimated to be between 10,000 and 15,000 bears. Presently, the statewide population is conservatively estimated to be between 30,000 and 40,000 bears.
Black bears are legally designated as a game mammal in California. Bear hunting follows a regulated process that includes obtaining a tag and restricting hunting to a specified season.
Black Bear Policy in California
Consistent with Fish and Game Code sections 1801, 4181 and 4181.1, the purpose of this updated statewide policy is to minimize human-bear conflicts and damage to private property while not significantly affecting California's bear population. The last time the Department holistically reviewed and updated its various bear policies was in 2000. Good wildlife management requires periodic review and update of policies to ensure adaptive improvements are made based on sound science. The major point of this policy update is to clarify categories of human-bear conflicts the Department and citizens experience and provide guidance on how such categories will be handled.
While this policy describes a comprehensive range of different situations, the core types of human-bear conflicts are:
- Public safety;
- Property damage; and,
- Continued human-bear interactions where the individual bear(s) have become habituated to human food sources.
This policy seeks to improve management in each of these core situational categories, provide clarity to staff and the public, and present a comprehensive humane set of strategies and actions. It has been implemented for the purposes of providing a consistent approach to bear management in California.
The Department’s updated policy provides information and guidance to the public and CDFW staff responding to human/bear conflicts or welfare bear incidents. This policy will be reviewed and evaluated on an ongoing basis to provide the most up to date guidelines for bear management in California.
Human-bear conflicts are reported in urban, rural and mountain communities throughout California. As communities expand into wildland areas, increasingly reported interactions between people and black bears has resulted in increased calls for assistance from the public. Many factors can lead to potential conflict due to increased attractants and competition for resources.
CDFW receives thousands of black bear sighting reports each year. Many reports describe concerns of human-bear interactions escalating to property damage or conflict. Most reports are resolved by providing species information and/or technical assistance. Few sightings result in a black bear being identified as an imminent threat to public safety.
It is natural for a bear to investigate all attractive smells and consume whatever seems like food. The only real solution to prevent conflict is to eliminate the attractant. If a black bear becomes habituated to humans or food conditioned, they may become increasingly bold or destructive. Property owners and tenants should take reasonable corrective measures such as: removal of food attractants, eliminating access to food attractants (e.g., bear-proof containers), electric fencing, electric mats. Learn more!
A person knowingly feeding a black bear could be subject to criminal penalties pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 14, § 251.3.
Fish and Game Code section 4181 and California Code of Regulations, Title 14, § 401 provide for the issuance of a revocable depredation permit to any owner or tenant of land or property that is being damaged or destroyed or is in danger of being damaged or destroyed by specific animals, including bears, as determined by Department staff. This ability has existed for Californians since at least 1957.
A permit shall be issued by the Department only upon satisfactory evidence of the damage or destruction. The Department may, at its discretion, add terms and conditions to the permit necessary to protect wildlife and ensure public safety. Importantly, the permit shall contain information about:
- Why the permit was necessary
- What efforts were made to solve the problem without killing the bear
- Corrective actions that should be implemented to prevent future conflict
- Proper disposal of the carcass.
If information is available to help identify the bear that caused the damage, this should be used to ensure the correct animal was trapped/captured before it is removed or lethally taken.
A depredation permit is the last step in a series of steps taken to prevent conflict and minimize property damage. Reasonable corrective measures should be made prior to issuing a permit. If no such efforts were made prior to requesting lethal action, the Department will work with the applicant to propose non-lethal efforts first, such as: Hazing; eliminating food attractants; enclosing animal pens; installing electric fencing; preventing access to potential denning sites; motion-sensor lights, sprinklers, or noise machines; guard animals.
Depredation permits may be issued for a variety of damages to personal property, such as damage to:
- Structures, dwellings, vehicles, trailers, and recreational vehicles.
- Orchards, agricultural crops, beehives (apiary).
- Injury of loss of pets.
- Injury or loss of livestock or fowl (e.g., sheep, goats, donkeys, chickens, geese, ducks).
Fish and Game Code section 4181.1(a) states any owner of livestock or the livestock owner’s employee may immediately take a bear encountered in the act of, inflicting injury to, molesting or killing livestock if the taking is reported to the Department no later than the next working day and the carcass is made available to the Department. If this occurs, LED should be notified for verification and reporting.