Only a dozen states now retain the word “Game” in the title of their wildlife agencies after Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation last week changing the name of California’s Department of Fish and Game to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. Come January 1, the department will also be known as CalWild (to go with CalFire and CalTrans).
For those wondering what the real world implications of the name change are, U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance spokesman Mike Faw summed it up: “Generally, that means a shift toward butterflies, endangered species and other stuff like that.”
While Assembly Bill 2402’s name change is largely symbolic―reflecting a gradual change from the department’s historical hunting and fishing agenda to one that includes conservation and natural resource planning―the governor’s signing of Senate Bill 1221 dealt a blow to hunters that the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance called, “Easily the most severe anti-hunting legislation ever passed into California law.”
SB 1221, which prohibits the use of hounds to track bears or bobcats, grew out of an incident early in the year when then-California Fish and Game Commission President Daniel W. Richards traveled to Idaho and used a dog to help track and kill a mountain lion. He posed for a picture draped in his dead quarry and sent it out for publication. It is illegal to hunt mountain lions in California.
State Senator Ted Lieu introduced the legislation after unsuccessfully trying to have Richards resign from the commission.
Around 5,200 hunters in California use hounds, and state officials estimate they killed less than half the 1,600 black bears taken last year and not quite 20% of the 1,195 bobcats. Animal rights groups maintain that the tracking and treeing of animals before dispatching them is inhumane. Hunting bears with hounds is illegal in 14 other, mostly Western, states.