California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Department's Statewide Black Bear Policy 2071

Consistent with sections 1801, 4181 and 4181.1 of the Fish and Game Code, the purpose of this black bear policy is to minimize bear/human conflicts and damage to private property while not significantly affecting California's bear population. This policy addresses situations where bears have entered residential areas and the Department must respond.

The Department considers improper storage of human food and garbage to be the primary cause of bear conflicts with humans. The reduction or elimination of bear attractants is emphasized throughout this policy and in the "Keep Me Wild" Program so that bears do not become habituated to human food and become problem bears in the future. This policy is intended to reduce the number of bear/human conflicts to the benefit of individual bears and people living near, or recreating in, bear habitat.

Bears that are threats to public safety, as determined by a public safety officer or Department employee, may be killed at any time without a permit. The specific procedures for handling public safety bears are detailed in the Department's Public Safety Wildlife Policy. "Region" refers to one of seven Department regions and "District" refers to one of four Department Law Enforcement Division (LED) districts.

The policy is organized into five elements described in detail below:

I. Incident Response

  1. Department regional or district personnel will attempt to respond to all bear incidents, either by phone or in person. The type and level of response should be consistent with the reported incident. The Department employee or volunteer receiving the report of a bear incident is responsible for ensuring that the incident is reported to an appropriate supervisor or manager. Other than sworn officers, only those Department personnel who have current certification in the Wildlife Investigations Lab (WIL) Wildlife Restraint Course may respond onsite to a bear incident unless specifically directed to do so by their chain-of-command or the onsite Department incident commander. The incident commander's directives will be followed by all on-site employees.

  2. The responding Department employee, under the authority of their Regional Manager or Chief of Enforcement, or his/her designee, will verify the validity of the complaint, determine the appropriate action, and if necessary, start control measures and/or issue a depredation permit pursuant to Section 401, Title 14, CCR.

  3. Incident documentation will be completed by the region or district when on-scene response to a bear call is necessary. This may include bear incident reports, depredation permits and follow-up or recurrence reports. Copies of this documentation shall be sent through the chain-of-command to region and Wildlife Branch (WLB).

  4. Under the conditions described in sections 4181 and/or 4181.1 of the Fish and Game Code, black bears that have damaged private property may be killed by the property owner or an agent. A depredation permit is not to be issued to kill a bear that is designated a public safety bear.

  5. The procedures for disposing of a bear taken under a depredation permit will be described in the permit prior to killing the bear. A Department employee will be responsible for disposal of, or to verify disposal of, such bear.

  6. Bears that stray into areas where human/bear conflicts are anticipated, and are not habituated to humans may at the Department's discretion, be captured and moved to the nearest suitable habitat in a safe and expedient manner.

  7. Bears that are determined to be habituated to humans are not candidates for moving. If such bears do not return to the wild on their own, the Department may attempt to capture the bear so that it may either be humanely euthanized or placed with a permitted animal care facility. A decision to capture a bear shall be made by the onsite field staff after consultation with the chain-of-command and with the WIL.

II. Response Categories and Remedial Actions

Following are the Department's three categories with examples, for responding to reported bear problems:

  • Category 1 - ("No Harm- No Foul bear") A non-habituated bear has strayed into a populated area and does not return to bear habitat. In most situations, removal of the attractants from the area will cause the bear to return to wild habitat and only phone contact with the reporting party will be necessary. Site response is only necessary in cases where a bear does not leave, or if other knowledge indicates that either the safety of the bear or the public is compromised. Techniques to cause (haze) the bear to leave may include, but are not limited to the use of non-lethal projectiles (e.g. rubber slug shot shells or sling shot projectiles) to drive the bear away and/or "bear" dogs to chase and haze the bear out of the area. Unless otherwise specified by a supervisor, a Department employee shall accompany any persons using dogs to chase or haze bears. Tranquilizing and removing the bear can be used if other methods are determined to be unsafe or have been unsuccessful.

  • Category 2 - (Habituated bear) A bear has become habituated to humans and may be a nuisance problem (no property damage involved) by tipping over garbage cans, invading compost piles, walking across porches, etc. Bears that have been previously captured and removed, but return to areas of human habitation are included in this category. The responder should continue to recommend reasonable corrective measures as a long-term solution to the problem. Reasonable corrective measures include, but are not limited to area clean-up, removal of trash or other food attractants, bear-proofing food storage areas, electric fencing, temporary closure of campsites, and/or the techniques listed in Category 1 above. Habituated bears are not candidates for moving and shall either be humanely euthanized or placed with a permitted animal care facility upon failure of the corrective measures.

  • Category 3 - (Depredation bear) A bear has caused real property damage to dwellings, structures, vehicles, apiaries, other man-made objects. If the damage is minor and there are no other previous reports of damage, the implementation of reasonable corrective measures to remove the attractants as outlined for Category 2 bears should be followed. If the situation worsens or damage is considered substantial in the opinion of the responder, corrective measures shall be made prior to, or in addition to, issuing a depredation permit pursuant to Fish and Game Code Section 4181. In cases where a bear has caused extensive and/or chronic damage to private property, such as injured or killed livestock, entered into an unoccupied home or cabin, or repeated damage where corrective or bear-proofing efforts have failed, the Department shall issue a depredation permit, if the property owner requests one. If the property owner does not want a depredation permit, the Department shall continue to advise on measures which need to be taken to prevent further property damage.

    As provided for in Section 4181.1 of the Fish and Game Code, landowners or their employees may kill a bear encountered in the act of molesting or injuring livestock as long as this taking is reported to the Department by the next working day. The carcass must be made available to the Department. After investigation, an after-the-fact depredation permit can be issued.

As provided for in Section 4181.1 of the Fish and Game Code, land owners may kill a bear encountered in the act of molesting or injuring livestock as long as this taking is reported to the Department by the next working day. The carcass also must be made available for inspection. After investigation, and after the fact depredation permit can be issued, the Department employee has the option of allowing the landowner to retain the carcass.

III. Guidelines for Relocation, Removal, Trapping or Hazing of Bears

Relocation in this policy is defined as the capture and release of a bear at least 20 air miles from the capture site. Category 1 bears may also be returned to their immediate habitat, which may be less than 20 miles.

  1. Trapping and relocating black bears is an option in unusual situations. Black bears shall only be relocated with the prior approval of the Wildlife Branch Chief or his/her designee.

  2. Only Department personnel are authorized to capture and relocate black bears. Personnel from federal, State and/or local agencies, nongovernment organizations, or the public may not capture and relocate bears unless specific authorization for relocating black bears is contained in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Director of the Department and the appropriate agency or entity. Any such MOU shall include directions for coordination of all trapping efforts on an incident-byincident basis.

  3. All relocated bears that are chemically immobilized shall be ear tagged in accordance with Section 4190 of the Fish and Game Code. Any bear needing to be chemically immobilized shall be handled in accordance with the WIL's "Administering Pharmaceuticals to Wildlife" instructions. Special procedures for handling and tagging bears within 14 days prior to or during any bear hunting season are included in those instructions and shall be adhered to prior to the release of any bear during this timeframe. Captured bears being returned to their immediate habitat or bears that are relocated should be tagged when possible. If tagging equipment is not available and immediate release or relocation is necessary, the bear should be marked in some manner for future identification. Any tags recovered from bears taken under permit, or otherwise taken, shall be forwarded to WLB with any permits or other written documentation on the animal.

  4. Prior to trapping a black bear for relocation purposes, a release site shall be approved by the regional manager or his/her designee. Release sites may be predesignated by the regional manager. The appropriate land management agency shall be notified of the release site(s) and the date and time of bear release(s). No bear shall be transported out of the State without the authorization of the Wildlife Branch Chief or his/her designee.

IV. Orphaned and Injured Bears

  1. On occasion, black bear cubs may be found orphaned or have been picked up and perceived orphaned. If, in the judgment of the responding Department employee, the cub(s) appear independent they should be left alone or hazed/moved back to natural habitat.

  2. Except as provided for category 1, 2 and 3 situations listed above, bears should never be handled. In the case of injured bears, responding personnel should assess injuries and euthanize any bear with injuries that would prevent it from surviving in the wild.

V. Orphaned Black Bear Cub Rehabilitation Guidelines

The following will inform Department personnel in implementing the policy as it relates to rehabilitation of orphaned cubs to be released into the wild or placement in a facility.

If at all possible, bear cubs should be allowed to return to the wild on their own or through hazing before a decision to capture them is made. Department personnel shall use the decision tree (Figure 1), to guide onsite actions for bear cubs. Cubs may be eligible for rehabilitation and release into the wild only if provisions have been made for the capture, transportation, care, and release of the animal before the cub is placed in captivity. Provisions are to include method of transport, timing of release, and financial resources for the capture, care and release of the animal, including Department costs. Approval from the Wildlife Investigations Lab supervisor (or his/her designee) is required prior to allowing an animal care facility to possess and/or rehabilitate a bear. For the purposes of this policy, a cub is defined as a bear weighing less than 50 pounds.

Selection Criteria - Cubs of the year may be candidates for rehabilitation if the following conditions are met:

  1. There is agreement among Department personnel in the region or district, the statewide bear coordinator, and the Wildlife Investigations Lab (WIL) supervisor (or their designees) that a given cub is suitable for rehabilitation. If agreement is not reached, the decision about whether a cub is suitable for rehabilitation will be made by the WIL supervisor.

  2. Orphaned cubs encountered before August 1, or obviously dependent on the sow if after August 1.

  3. Orphaned cubs that have had little or no contact with humans and are not imprinted on humans or reliant on humans for food.

Procedure

  1. Orphaned cubs that are candidates for rehabilitation will be transported in a secure container as quickly as possible to the rehabilitation facility where they will be held in secure confinement. Cubs will be kept in a quiet place with little or no human contact. The cub(s) will be given adequate food and water. All rehabilitation bear cubs shall be ear-tagged by the rehabilitating facility prior to transportation for release into the wild. Marking of bear cubs is required by Section 4190 of the Fish and Game Code.

  2. Release of rehabilitated cub(s) requires placing the animal(s) in natural or artificially constructed dens during the most appropriate time of late fall or winter. Den sites should not be disturbed after the cub(s) is placed in the den. Rehabilitated cubs should be released in suitable habitat (near snow line is preferred) within 75 miles of the site where they were originally captured. The release site shall be coordinated with the land management agency or landowner. The release of a rehabilitated cub shall be supervised by Department personnel who should be prepared to address questions from the news media. Den sites should not be disturbed after the cub(s) is placed in the den.

  3. Cubs that do not meet the criteria for rehabilitation will be permanently placed with a permitted facility after considering the welfare of the bear cub, the benefits to the public of the State of California, and the availability of Department-permitted facilities willing to accept a cub. Temporary holding facilities may be authorized to care for the cub until placement is determined. Placement of bear cubs for rehabilitation and for permanent placement will be the responsibility of the Department's Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator and under the direction of the Wildlife Investigation Lab supervisor, or designee.

  4. The selection of a facility (whether for rehabilitation or for placement) will give priority to the nearest facility to the area that the cub is from, provided that facility is prepared to take the cub; or, in order, the next closest facility that is willing to take the animal until placement is made.


Decision Tree for Actions Related to Orphaned Black Bear Cubs

Decision tree for found bear cubs