Bear hunters taking to the field this season will need to have their heads more closely examined, if they are successful in their hunt.
The California Department of Fish and Game biologists and wardens are requiring hunters to pull a tooth from the skull of every bear taken during the 2011 black bear hunting season, which begins July 9.
This is a change from last year, when the DFG only required a tooth be pulled from every other bear harvested during the season. The change stems from a request by the California Fish and Game Commission, which wants to take a closer look at the management of black bear hunting in California. The commission is the deciding body for hunting and fishing regulations. In 2010, a proposal to modify the number of bears legally taken during the hunting season was scrutinized by commission members as well as the public. During the regulation setting process, commission members and the public voiced a desire to look at regional bear hunt management.
The bear teeth provide insight in the bear population. A premolar is pulled from the bear’s mandible and processed at a Montana laboratory specializing in finding the age of an animal. Lab technicians can find the age of the bear, and reproductive events can also be detected in female teeth.
The DFG uses the information to monitor the bear population, which is then used to decide new hunting regulations.
California’s black bear population is estimated to be at more than 30,000. Current regulations allow up to 1,700 bears to be taken during the hunting season.