34 California Bear Hunting Laws Every Hunter Should Know Before Hunting

Here, we fetch up California bear hunting laws every hunter should know before hunting. We retrieve them from the Fish and Game Code, as well as Title 14 of the Code of Regulations. We bring them back to the Menu below with brief summaries and links to the text, as well as links to our pages with related topics (e.g. firearm laws).

Warning shot!! The laws on this page either add to or further restrict general hunting regulations for broader categories applicable to “wildlife,” “mammals,” and “big game mammals” (click here to see those regulations). Finally, for hunter-friendly summaries of California bear hunting rules—without the legal mumbo jumbo—see our page for black bear seasons, hunting laws, and locations.


Introduction to California Bear Hunting Laws

Our Menu of California bear hunting laws include definitions and hunt zones, as well as special hunts for archers, juniors, and muzzleloaders. You’ll also find rules relating to seasons, bag limits, and tag quotas. For practically everything else you need to know about bear hunting, also see our summary for  bear seasons, hunting laws, and locations.  Warning shots!! While we include many California bear hunting laws, always check with the Fish & Game Commission for additional and current regulations.


Selection of California Bear Hunting Laws

Our menu includes major California bear hunting laws and some broader categories, including some for mammals, game mammals, and big game mammals, in general. In alphabetical order, topics include: ammoarchery (restrictions), computer-assist remotescrossbowsdefinition of big gamedefinition of game mammalsdepredation permits (procedures and restrictions), dog for mammalsdogs for bearequipment (e.g. tracking devices), herdinghunting methods, hunting restrictionslicense, personal use of carcasspossession, refuge permitssale of bear and partsseasons determinationshooting hours, skullstag applications, tags (drawing system, duration, head and skin retentionfundraisers, procedurespurchasing, quotas, replacements, and violations), and transport of carcass.

California bear hunting laws.
California bear hunting laws.
    1. FGC § 302 requires the Fish & Game Commission to make annual determination that bear season is viable based, in part, on health factors and bear populations.
    2. FGC § 3004.5 requires nonlead centerfire ammo when using pistols or rifles in the Condor Range to take big game, including bear.
    3. FGC § 3950 defines game mammals to include certain species of black bear.
    4. FGC § 3960 defines “bear,” “black bear,” and “pursue,” and generally prohibits use of dogs to pursue bears.
    5. FGC § 3960.2, when pursuing bear with depredation permits, generally (a) restricts use of hunting dogs, (b) requires submission of reports and bear skull to the CDFW, (c) prohibits compensation to third parties for performing depredation services, and (d) prohibits sale or purchase of the bear parts.
    6. FGC § 4181 allows owners and tenants to apply for depredation permits to kill bears causing or that will cause property damage, and generally prohibits (a) sale or shipment of the carcass and (b) use of iron or steel-jawed traps.
    7. FGC § 4181.1 allows owners of livestock–and their employees–to immediately kill bears molesting or injuring livestock; requires (a) self-reporting to the CDFW and (b) the CDFW to make a report; and allows the CDFW to investigate.
    8. FGC § 4185 allows bears near beehives in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties to be taken, but only with fence traps with warning signs.
    9. FGC § 4750 requires a bear tag before taking bear with a firearm, bow and arrow, or trap; and prohibits iron and steel-jawed traps.
    10. FGC § 4751 establishes requirements to purchase bear tags, including residency, age, license, and fees.
    11. FGC § 4752 limits validity of bear tags to the current license year (ends June 30).
    12. FGC § 4753 requires hunters to (a) carry bear tags wile hunting bears and (b) after killing a bear, to immediately complete the tag, attach it to the bear, and notify the CDFW.
    13. FGC § 4754 requires hunters, upon conviction of violating any Fish and Game Code, to forfeit bear tags, and prohibits tag applications during the following license year (July 1 – June 30).
    14. FGC § 4757 requires hunters to (a) retain the “skin and portion of head with the ears” until at least 15 days after season ends and (b) show it upon request to enforcement officers.
    15. FGC § 4758 prohibits sale or purchase of bear meat, skin, hides, teeth, claws, or other parts, and establishes that possession of two or more gall bladders is proof of intent to sell.
    16. FGC § 4759 allows hunter to (a) possess bear skin, hides, teeth, claws, and other parts for tanning or personal use and (b) donate those parts to qualified organizations for the purpose of rehabilitating veterans.
    17. FGC § 4760 makes rules applicable to bears transported into California, but taken elsewhere.
    18. 14 CCR § 251 prohibits use of (a) location devicesat any time–attached to big game (e.g. tracking devices); (b) devices capable of flight or orbit (e.g. drones)–from between 48 hours before and after the hunting season; and (c) motor vehicles to hunt mammals (e.g. shooting from a moving truck), but includes exemptions for unpowered boatsdepredation permits, and mobility-impaired hunters.
    19. 14 CCR § 251.1 prohibits mammal harassment, as it defines, and generally prohibits herding and driving.
    20. 14 CCR § 251.5 requires hunters to immediately kill game mammals taken into their possession, and add the to his or her daily bag limits.
    21. 14 CCR § 251.9 prohibits computer-assist remotes and sites, as it defines, for hunting mammals.
    22. 14 CCR § 265 prohibits use of dogs (a) to take bear, (b) during archery seasons for deer and bear; (c) to pursue mammals or dog training in dog control zones, as it defines, during certain times of the year; (d) in excess of the number of dogs it allows per hunter; or (e) with global positioning equipment.
    23. 14 CCR § 350 defines big game to include certain species of bear.
    24. 14 CCR § 352 establishes shooting hours for big game, including bear.
    25. 14 CCR § 353 allows hunting (a) big game with bow and arrowsrifles, and muzzleloading rifles, subject to restrictions for ammo, sights, tags, artificial lights, vehicles, the Condor RangeVisually Disabled Muzzleloader Scope Permits, and Disabled Archer’s Permits, (b) bear with pistols, revolvers, and shotguns, subject to restrictions for shell capacity and ammo, and (c) crossbows during the regular deer season or with a Disabled Archer’s Permit.
    26. 14 CCR § 354 prohibits (1) crossbows, as it defines, during the any archery season except with a Disabled Archer’s Permit; (2) small broad head-type blades; (3) arrows and crossbow bolts using (a) lighted nocks with directional beam of light, (b) explosive heads, (c) tranquilizers, and (d) poison; (4) shooting across roads and highways; (5) possession of firearm while hunting during any archery season or with an archer-only tag; and (6) bow or crossbows in a ready-to-fire position in or on vehicles; and requires minimum casting distance of 13o yards.
    27. 14 CCR § 365 allows bear hunting, but only in compliance with restrictions relating to hunting areas, seasons, bag limits, possession limits, and bait.
    28. 14 CCR § 366 allows bear hunting with a bow and arrow, but only in compliance with restrictions relating to hunting areas, seasons, bag limits, possession limits, dogs, and bait.
    29. 14 CCR § 367.5 requires bear hunters to surrender bear skulls within 10 days to the CDFW, which will return the skull unless it needs it for scientific purposes.
    30. 14 CCR § 401 allows landowners to apply for depredation permits from the CDFW to kill bear causing or or treating to cause immediate property damage, but only in compliance with permit (a) restrictions relating to methods of take, use of the carcass, and local firearm regulations and (b) requirements relating to reports and tags.
    31. 14 CCR § 656 allows the CDFW to issue free permits to hunt bear within a refuge, but only in compliance with permit conditions.
    32. 14 CCR § 700 requires hunters to carry a hunting license in his or her immediate possession while hunting.
    33. 14 CCR § 702 (external link) identifies fees for (a) applications to hunt big game on private wildlife management areas, (b) reservations to hunt on wildlife areas, and (c) hunts tags and drawing.
    34. 14 CCR § 708.12 establishes procedures for bear tags relating to fees, applications, tagging, reporting, guides, and validations.
    35. 14 CCR § 708.17 limits the number of replacement bear tags to one tag per year, but only in compliance with the procedures.

Regulations for California Bear Hunting Laws

FGC § 302 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

When adopting regulations pursuant to any authority otherwise vested in the commission by this code, the commission shall annually determine whether to continue, repeal, or amend regulations establishing hunting seasons for black bears. The determination shall include a review of factors which impact the health and viability of the black bear population.

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FGC § 4750 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

It is unlawful to take any bear with firearm, trap, or bow and arrow without first procuring a tag authorizing the taking of that bear in accordance with this chapter, but no iron or steel-jawed or any type of metal-jawed trap shall be used to take any bear.

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FGC § 4751 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

(a) Any resident of this state, 12 years of age or over, who possesses a valid hunting license, may procure the number of bear tags corresponding to the number of bear that may legally be taken by one person during the current license year, upon payment of a base fee of fifteen dollars ($15), as adjusted under Section 713, for each bear tag. Fee revenues pursuant to this subdivision shall be deposited in the Big Game Management Account established in Section 3953 and, upon appropriation by the Legislature, shall be expended as set forth in that section.

(b) Any nonresident of this state, 12 years of age or over, who possesses a valid California hunting license, may procure the number of bear tags corresponding to the number of bear that may be legally taken by one person during the current license year upon payment of the base fee of one hundred five dollars ($105), as adjusted under Section 713, for each bear tag. Fee revenues pursuant to this subdivision shall be deposited in the Big Game Management Account established in Section 3953 and, upon appropriation by the Legislature, shall be expended as set forth in that section.

FGC § 4752 (California Bear hunting laws)

Bear tags are valid only during that portion of the current hunting license year in which bear may be taken or possessed in any district.

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FGC § 4753 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

The person to whom a bear tag has been issued shall carry the tag while hunting bear. Upon the killing of any bear, that person shall immediately fill out the tag completely, legibly, and permanently, and cut out or punch out and completely remove notches or punch holes for the month and the date of the kill. One part of the tag shall be immediately attached to the ear of the bear and kept attached during the open season and for 15 days thereafter. The holder of the bear tag shall immediately, upon harvesting a bear, notify the department in a manner specified by the commission. Except as otherwise provided by this code or regulations adopted pursuant to this code, it is unlawful to possess any untagged bear.

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FGC § 4754 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

(a) Any person who is convicted of a violation of any provision of this code, or of any rule, regulation, or order made or adopted under this code, relating to bears shall forfeit his or her bear tags, and new bear tags shall not be issued to that person during the then current license year for hunting licenses.

(b) A person described in subdivision (a) shall not apply for bear tags for the following license year.

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FGC § 4757 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

Any person taking any bear must retain in his possession during the open season thereon, and for 15 days thereafter, the skin and portion of the head bearing the ears, and must produce the skin and portion of the head upon the demand of any officer authorized to enforce the provisions of this code.

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FGC § 4758 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

(a) Subject to the provisions of this code permitting the sale of domestically raised game mammals, it is unlawful to sell or purchase, or possess for sale, the meat, skin, hide, teeth, claws, or other parts of any bear in this state.

(b) The possession of more than one bear gall bladder is prima facie evidence that the bear gall bladders are possessed for sale.

(c) Nothing in this section prohibits a sale authorized pursuant to Section 3087.

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FGC § 4759 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

The skin, hide, teeth, claws, or other parts of any bear lawfully taken and possessed for the period provided in Section 4757 may be tanned or utilized for personal use only. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 4757, the skin, hide, teeth, claws, or other parts of any bear lawfully taken may be donated any time to veterans’ organizations or veterans’ service committees for use by veterans for rehabilitation purposes. The donor shall obtain a receipt which shall be retained during the period stipulated by Section 4757.

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FGC § 4760 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

The provisions of this chapter relating to the possession of bear apply to bear taken outside this State and transported into this State.

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14 CCR § 365 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

Except as provided in Section 366, bear may be taken only as follows:

(a) Areas:

(1) Northern California:

In the counties of Del Norte, Humboldt, Plumas, Shasta, Siskiyou, Tehama and Trinity; and those portions of Lassen and Modoc counties west of the following line: Beginning at Highway 395 and the Sierra-Lassen county line; north on Highway 395 to the junction of Highway 36; west on Highway 36 to the junction of Highway 139; north on Highway 139 to Highway 299; north on Highway 299 to County Road 87; west on County Road 87 to Lookout-Hackamore Road; north on Lookout-Hackamore Road to Highway 139; north on Highway 139 to the Modoc-Siskiyou county line; north on the Modoc-Siskiyou county line to the Oregon border.

(2) Central California:

In the counties of Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, Placer, Sacramento, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba and those portions of Napa and Sonoma counties northeast of Highway 128.

(3) Southern Sierra:

That portion of Kern County west of Highway 14 and east of the following line: Beginning at the intersection of Highway 99 and the Kern-Tulare county line; south on Highway 99 to Highway 166; west and south on Highway 166 to the Kern-Santa Barbara county line; and those portions of Fresno, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, Stanislaus, Tulare and Tuolumne counties east of Highway 99.

(4) Southern California:

In the counties of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and Ventura; that portion of Riverside County north of Interstate 10 and west of Highway 62; and that portion of San Bernardino County south and west of the following line: Beginning at the intersection of Highway 18 and the Los Angeles-San Bernardino county line; east along Highway 18 to Highway 247; southeast on Highway 247 to Highway 62; southwest along Highway 62 to the Riverside-San Bernardino county line.

(5) Southeastern Sierra:

Those portions of Inyo and Mono counties west of Highway 395; and that portion of Madera County within the following line: Beginning at the junction of the Fresno-Madera-Mono county lines; north and west along the Madera-Mono county line to the boundary of the Inyo-Sierra National Forest; south along the Inyo-Sierra National Forest boundary to the Fresno-Madera county line; north and east on the Fresno-Madera county line to the point of beginning. Also, that portion of Inyo county west of Highway 395; and that portion of Mono county beginning at the intersection of Highway 6 and the Mono county line; north along Highway 6 to the Nevada state line; north along the Nevada state line to the Alpine county line; south along the Mono-Alpine county line to the Mono-Tuolumne county line and the Inyo National Forest Boundary; south along the Inyo National Forest Boundary to the Inyo-Sierra Forest boundary; south along the Inyo-Sierra Forest boundary to the Fresno-Madera county line; north and east along the Fresno-Madera county line to the junction of the Fresno-Madera-Mono county line; south along the Mono-Fresno county line to the Mono-Inyo County line; east along the Mono-Inyo county line to the point of beginning.

(b) Seasons:

Except in the deer hunt areas designated as zones X-1 through X-7b in subsection 360(b), the bear season shall open on the opening day of the general deer season as described in subsections 360(a) and (b) and extend until the last Sunday in December in the areas described in subsections 365(a)(1), (2), (3) (4) and (5) above. In those areas designated as deer hunting zones X-1 through X-7b, the bear season shall open on the second Saturday in October and extend for 79 consecutive days. The bear season shall be closed when the department determines that 1,700 bears have been taken pursuant to the reporting requirement in subsection 708.12(d). The department shall notify the commission, the public via the news media and bear tag holders via the U.S. mail and the news media when implementing this closure.

(c) Bag and Possession Limit:

One adult bear per hunting license year. Cubs and females accompanied by cubs may not be taken. (Cubs are defined as bears less than one year of age or bears weighing less than 50 pounds.)

(d) No open season for bear in the balance of the state not included in subsection (a) above.

(e) Bait:

No feed, bait or other materials capable of attracting a bear shall be placed or used for the purpose of taking or pursuing a bear. No bear shall be taken over such bait. No person may take a bear within a 400-yard radius of a garbage dump or bait.

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14 CCR § 366 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

Bear may be taken with bow and arrow during the bear season as specified in Section 365 and as follows:

(a) Areas:

Those portions of the state as described in subsection 365(a).

(b) Season:

The archery bear season shall open on the third Saturday in August and extend for 23 consecutive days. There is no open season for taking bear with bow and arrow in the balance of the state.

(c) Bag and Possession Limit:

One adult bear per hunting license year. Cubs and female accompanied by cubs may not be taken. (Cubs are defined as bears less than one year of age or bears weighing less than 50 pounds.)

(d) The use of dogs is prohibited during the archery season for bear.

(e) Bait.

No feed, bait or other materials capable of attracting a bear to a feeding area shall be placed or used for the purpose of taking or pursuing a bear. No bear shall be taken over such bait. No person may take a bear within a 400 yard radius of a garbage dump or bait.

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14 CCR § 367.5 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

Any person who takes a bear shall present the skull (even if damaged) to a department office/officer within 10 days of taking the bear. The skull shall become property of the department. That portion of the skull not needed for scientific purposes shall be returned.

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14 CCR § 656 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

The department may issue a free permit to take beaver or bear within a refuge under the following conditions:

(a) Applications to take beaver or bear shall be filed with the department and shall show:

(1) Name and address of applicant.

(2) Name of refuge involved.

(3) The approximate number of animals to be taken.

(4) Such other pertinent data as the department may require.

(b) All permits shall be for a stated period of time not to exceed six months.

(c) No permit shall be issued unless the department is satisfied that damage is presently occurring or is immediately threatened.

(d) During the first two weeks of January of each year, each permittee shall submit to the department report of specimens taken during the preceding calendar year and no new permit shall be issued until such a report has been received.

(e) The commission may revoke a permit for violation of the terms of the permit.

(f) Any applicant convicted of violating these regulations or the terms and conditions of his permit must appear before the Fish and Game Commission before his permit may be reinstated or a new permit issued to him.

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14 CCR § 708.12 (California Bear Hunting Laws)

(a) Bear License Tags:

(1) With the exception of permits and tags issued pursuant to section 4181 of the Fish and Game Code, all bear license tags shall be available to the public through the department’s Automated License Data System terminals at any department license agent or department license sales office.

(2) The department shall require that the specified fee provided for in section 4751 of the Fish and Game Code for such bear license tags be paid as a prerequisite to obtaining a bear license tag.

(3) The department shall charge a nonrefundable processing fee, as specified in Section 702, for each bear license tag.

(4) Applicants may purchase only one bear license tag during any one license year. Any person who purchases more than one bear license tag may be denied bear license tags for the current license year.

(5) Upon the killing of any bear, that person shall immediately fill out all portions of the tag including the report card completely, legibly, and permanently, and cut out or punch out and completely remove notches or punch holes for the month and date of the kill. The bear license tag shall be attached to the ear of the bear and kept attached during the open season and for 15 days thereafter.

(b) Use of Guides:

Any holder of a bear license tag who utilizes the services of a guide or guides shall verify that the guide is in possession of a valid guide’s license and shall place the guide’s license number on the bear license tag in the space provided.

(c) Validation of Bear Tags:

Only department employees may validate bear license tags (This provision supersedes section 4755 of the Fish and Game Code). Bear license tags shall be countersigned by a department employee before transporting such bear except for the purpose of taking it to the nearest department employee authorized to countersign the bear license tag. If department offices are closed, the bear tag shall be validated within one (1) business day of transporting the bear from the point where taken.

(d) Return of Bear License Tags:

(1) Every person who takes a bear shall immediately return the report card portion of the bear license tag, after having the tag countersigned as required in (c) above. The tag may be presented to a department office/officer or returned through the United States Mail.

(2) Every person who is unsuccessful in taking bear shall return the report card portion of the bear license tags by February 1 of the current license year. The tag may be presented to a department office/officer or returned through the United States Mail.

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Warning shot!! While we try to fetch up all major California bear hunting laws, we might miss a few or make a typo. If so, please leave a comment or question in the reply box below.

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