BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    




                   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 








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          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 








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          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.