Here's info on the 2009 season from the CA DFG.
"The bear season closed on December 16 when the Department received notification of 1,700 bears harvested statewide pursuant to California Code of Regulations, Title 14, section 365. The Department subsequently notified all bear tag holders, the Fish and Game Commission and media outlets of the season closure pursuant to subsection 708(e)(Id.).
In all, 24,805 bear hunters purchased tags, as reported by the License and Revenue Branch. This total consisted of 24,520 resident bear tags and 285 non-resident bear tags. Total bear tag sales in 2009 was 2.3% less than 2008 bear tag sales but 10.4% greater than the previous ten years’ average.
This season, 1,900 black bears were reported harvested, which is 6.7% less than the reported take in 2008 (see Figure 1). Of the 1,900 bears harvested, 40% were female, 57% were male and 3% were unreported or marked unknown."
The current DFG black bear estimate for California is
25,000 to 30,000. That's 15,000 to 20,000 higher than DFG numbers from the 1980's.
Now I'm not into hunting bear.
But I strongly suspect that 1,900 out of 25,000 to 30,000 is hardly going to wipe a population out.
As for ethics and conservation, I'd far rather spend my time and energy fighting a culture of industrial feed lots, overfishing, and the pervasive madness/cruelty that goes into stocking fast food restaurants and the meat section of your supermarket than what a hunter is shooting and putting in his or her freezer.
If we want to save the bears (and I'm not saying that's what this post or the OP is implying, just philosophizing here), fighting land developers would go a whole lot further than poo-pooing bear hunters.
I totally agree with your original post Thomas. Bears are noble and do us no harm and I personally see no reason to hunt them.
That being said, plenty of people do eat them.
What creature that we kill for food or otherwise isn't noble and harmless to us?