Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission votes to permanently eliminate recreational spring bear hunting

Earlier this yearLiving Snoqualmie has published an opinion piece urging the public to comment on a proposed new rule for the spring bear hunt that would make the season permanent.

March 19e, the Washington Fish & Wildlife Commission rejected the proposed rule by a vote of 5–4. However, the vote on the matter was not permanent, and the commission was scheduled to discuss the matter again on November 18.

In a historic decision last Friday, the Commission voted to establish a state policy eliminating recreational spring bear hunting. After a long workshop devoted to discussing the spring bear hunt, the Commission voted 5 to 4 to approve a policy stating that the Commission does not “Spring recreational black bear hunting.”

Commission Chair Barbara Baker and Commissioners Tim Ragen, Lorna Smith, John Lehmkuhl and Melanie Rowland supported the new policy, while Vice-Chair Molly Linville and Commissioners Kim Thorburn, Jim Anderson and Don McIsaac supported it. opposites.

Proponents of the new policy focused on the importance of being true to the Commission’s statutory mandate, carefully reviewing science and data, and restoring public confidence in the State Department of Fisheries and from wildlife.

Chairman Baker pointed out that the Commission’s inability to definitively decide the Spring Bear issue has eroded its credibility and contributed to the false perception that there is a “culture war” going on. She pointed out that when the spring bear hunt began almost 50 years ago, it was a carefully controlled hunt for clearly defined management reasons, but it turned into a recreational hunt. without the Commission having ever approved this change.

The spring bear hunt is only legal in eight other states, and surveys have long shown it to be deeply unpopular with the Washington public. A recent poll commissioned by Washington Wildlife First confirmed that 80% of Washington voters oppose the spring bear hunt, which targets black bears as they emerge from hibernation and often leads to the orphanage of bears. nursing cubs. The survey also showed that 69% of Washington voters in hunting households oppose the spring bear hunt.

Commissioners Thorburn and McIsaac insisted that the hunt continue despite this overwhelming opposition, for the benefit of the few hundred Washingtonians who participate each year. Department director Kelly Susewind, who has vowed to bring back controversial trophy hunting, echoed those demands, insisting it was not enough that hunters could only kill bears during the season. autumn which extends from August to November.

“Spring hunting is very different…I can tell you from personal experience, my first game was a spring bear 51 years ago, it’s a very different experience,” said Suseven. “Don’t say that I have the opportunity [to kill bears] in the fall replaces my opportunity in the spring. It’s not. .…Don’t tell me it’s the same thing, and if I kill a bear in the fall, it’s like killing a bear in the spring. This is simply not the case.

Samantha Bruegger of Washington Wildlife First said the agency director’s personal hunting preferences should not control Washington’s wildlife policy.

“Washington’s wildlife policy should reflect the values ​​and ethics of all people in the state, not just the less than 3% who hunt, the even smaller percentage who hunt bears, or the few hundred who hunt bears in the spring”, she says. “I’m a hunter, but I don’t believe my recreational interests allow me to dictate how Washington manages its wildlife, and neither does the department director’s preferences.”

Friday’s vote marks the end of the Commission’s long discussion on this subject, which began more than two years ago after citizens first expressed serious concerns about the lack of scientific justification for the hunt. .

Late last year, a short-handed commission voted 4-4 not to approve Department leadership’s request for a bear hunt in the spring of 2022. The move has since been criticized by bear hunters across the country, who proclaimed the vote to be the first step in a vast conspiracy to eliminate all hunting in Washington.

“Most Washingtonians support the continuation of legal and regulated hunting, as do Washington Wildlife First and every member of the Commission. But that doesn’t mean hunting without limits, and we join the vast majority of the Washington public in believing it’s wrong to kill bears in the spring just for “playtime,” at a time when bears are just coming out. hibernation, many are near starvation, and the cubs are still suckling,” said Claire Loebs Davis, president of Washington Wildlife First

“It’s nonsense to say that today’s vote is the first step toward eliminating the hunt in Washington, but we hope the Commission’s strong stance on the spring bear issue will stay within the limits. memoirs as the end of the Commission’s rubber stamp, and as one of the first steps in successfully demanding more transparency, accountability and honesty from Department leadership.

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