There’s a reason that Dan Richards, president of the California Fish and Game Commission, provoked a firestorm of criticism from Californians when he pushed out a photo of himself grinning as he held up the body of a mountain lion he chased down with a pack of dogs, then shot and killed in a trophy hunt in Idaho. California voters have registered their views against mountain lion hunting in two statewide ballot measures in 1990 and 1996. Richards’ hunt and his photo op―coupled with his dismissive and disrespectful comments about the values of Californians―were unbecoming and insensitive actions given his official role. That’s not the approach of a leader, but an opportunist. He showed he’s not fit to serve on the Commission, and certainly not to be its president.
Now, in the wake of the scandal, there’s a notable follow-up action, which could easily become part of Dan Richards’ true legacy. Today, state Senator Ted Lieu introduced Senate Bill 1221 to ban the use of hounds when hunting or chasing bears and bobcats in California.
If the public thinks chasing lions with packs of dogs and shooting them out of a tree for a trophy is wrong, then it’s wrong to do it to bears or bobcats. Same unsporting, inhumane, unethical practice―just different targets.
The HSUS will work hard to remind lawmakers that the public doesn’t have tolerance for this sort of inhumane and unsporting trophy hunting practice. Last year, we surveyed California voters on the issue, and 83 percent of them oppose hound hunting of bears. It’s now up to the legislature to handle it.
Many hunters―including duck hunters who take their dogs into the field with them―oppose hounding of these animals, too. Some of the biggest bear hunting states, including Montana and Pennsylvania, prohibit the use of dogs. California’s Pacific Coast neighbors, Oregon and Washington, banned this practice after voters approved initiatives to halt it. The editors of the Los Angeles Times called for an end to bear hounding last year. If lawmakers don’t heed the views of the people, the subject just might end up on the ballot in the Golden State. We’ll be working with animal advocates, hunters, and others to stop this abuse of bears and bobcats.
We can thank Dan Richards, in all of his arrogance and bluster, for bringing focus to the problems associated with hound hunting, and reminding wildlife advocates in his home state to seek additional reforms there.