BILL ANALYSIS Ó Senate Appropriations Committee Fiscal Summary Senator Christine Kehoe, Chair SB 1221 (Lieu) - Mammals: use of dogs to pursue bears and bobcats. Amended: March 26, 2012 Policy Vote: NR&W 5-3 Urgency: No Mandate: Yes Hearing Date: May 7, 2012 Consultant: Marie Liu This bill may meet the criteria for referral to the Suspense File. Bill Summary: SB 1221 would prohibit the use of dogs for bear and bobcat hunting. Fiscal Impact: One-time costs of $18,000 from the Fish and Game Preservation Fund (special fund) beginning in 2013 for changes to Fish and Game regulations. Uncertain revenues losses, from negligible to a $265,000 annually but likely approximately $130,000, starting in 2013 from Fish and Game Preservation Fund (special fund), mostly to the Big Game Account, from reduced bear and bobcat tag sales. Background: Current law allows hunters to use dogs for hunting bears and bobcats. Dogs must be under the physical control of its owner or as authorized by regulations of the Fish and Game Commission, which allow the use of radio telemetry devices on the dogs, but not GPS devices. Over the past nine years, the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) issued an average of 23,300 resident bear tags ($42/each) and 274 non-resident bear tags ($270/each) resulting in slightly more than $1 million per year in revenue to the Big Game Account within the Fish and Game Preservation Fund. Over the same period, there was an average of about 3,000 bobcat tags sold ($15/each) for approximately $47,000 in annual revenue to the Fish and Game Preservation Fund. An unlimited number of bear tags are sold; however, once the annual quota of bears has been caught for the year, the bear hunting season is closed. Proposed Law: This bill would prohibit the use of dogs to pursue SB 1221 (Lieu) Page 1 any bear or bobcat at any time. Use of dogs to pursue bears or bobcats by federal, state, or local law enforcement officers, or their agents, while carrying out official duties would be exempted from the prohibition. Staff Comments: According to DFG, this bill would necessitate changing some regulations, at a cost of approximately $18,000 for staff time. The other direct cost of this bill is the potential loss of revenue from reduced bear and bobcat tag sales. Both DFG and opponents of the bill estimate that approximately 5,700 tags are bought by bear hunters using dogs (hound hunters), roughly a quarter of sales. The extent of this bill's effect on tag sales is uncertain. Opponents argue that all hound hunters would likely no longer buy bear tags should this bill become law at an estimated loss of $260,000. Approximately 11% of bobcats are taken with the use of dogs. If all hound hunters additionally stop buying bobcat tags, there could be approximately $5,000 in additional revenue losses, for a total maximum impact of $265,000 from reduced bears and bobcat tag sales. On the other hand, the Humane Society of the United States, the sponsor of the bill, cites data from Colorado, Washington, and Oregon that indicate stable or increasing numbers of bear hunters and tag sales after hunting with dogs was banned. Staff believes that a reasonable cost estimate of lost revenues would assume half of the bear and bobcat tags associated with hound hunters would no longer be bought (a 12.5% and 5.5% reduction in tags, respectively), or $130,000 in annual revenue reductions. Staff notes that both the opponents and supporters of the bill have contended potential impacts of the bill on enforcement costs, all of which is speculative. Supporters note high existing enforcement costs associated with the use of hounds for bear hunting based on warden incident reports involving hounds. Opponents, on the other hand, note that the Big Game Account is partially used for enforcement purposes, so that reduced revenues to that account from reduced bear tag sales may translate to less law enforcement resources which can lead to increased illegal activities at a cost to the state. DFG notes that it uses tag sales to help estimate bear populations. If there is a significant decline in tag sales, DFG may have to find alternative approaches to gathering population SB 1221 (Lieu) Page 2 data, which is needed to determine the annual quota of allowed bear take. Population studies can be a significant cost- possibly $250,000 annually. Staff believes that it is unlikely for this bill to trigger this cost, especially noting variability in past bear tag sales. Over the past nine years, bear tag sales vary approximately ?8% around the average. Additionally, DFG's current population estimates have a high degree of uncertainty, so that a 12% change in the bear tag sales may not greatly affect the accuracy and precision of the estimates. This bill contains a non-reimbursable state-mandated local program because it creates a new crime.