Washington Wildlife Commission Cancels Spring 2022 Bear Hunt
Legislation/Policy Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM ProjectCoyote.org
March 2022

Commission halts unethical and unscientific spring black bear hunt from proceeding after hunting groups petitioned to reinstate it.

Bear and Cub

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-4 today to oppose a permanent spring black bear hunting season. The decision follows on the heels of a 4-4 split decision in November to cancel permits for the 2022 spring bear hunt.

“This vote is a huge win for Washington’s black bears and for democratic process,” said Michelle Lute, PhD in wildlife management and national carnivore conservation manager for Project Coyote. “Washingtonians consistently showed up to voice their strong opposition to an ethically indefensible spring bear hunt that is also not supported by science. Today they were heard.”

Following the November decision, a group of hunting groups petitioned the Commission to reinstate the spring 2022 hunting season and enact a permanent spring bear hunt.

On March 11, over 200 people attended the Commission public hearing on the spring hunt via zoom in hopes of testifying. Strong opposition led to time running out for those opposed to a spring bear hunt to share their views; only 55 individuals — out of more than 200 who attended — were able to share comments on the hunt. Many of those who opposed a spring bear hunt were unable to speak.

Experts and members of the public expressed concerns over the hunt taking place when bears are most vulnerable during the spring season, citing both ethical and scientific concerns. During the spring season, black bears emerge from hibernation showing signs of physiological stress, including lethargy due to nutrient loss and low food supply. The loss of female bears results in orphaned cubs dying due to starvation, predation or exposure.

Washingtonians also expressed concern over the population's susceptibility to overhunting and the lack of data on population health. Some commissioners urged the Commission to exercise a precautionary approach to managing the state's black bears given the lack of data to indicate a healthy population.

“We commend the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission's decision to cancel this unethical and unscientific hunt,” said Renee Seacor, carnivore conservation advocate for Project Coyote and The Rewilding Institute. “Washington’s black bears and the ecosystems that benefit from their presence now have a much better future – that’s a win for everyone.”

According to public polling, a majority of Americans disapprove of a spring bear hunt, and only 15 percent of people in Western states favor spring bear hunting. Compared to many other controversial hunting methods, Americans disapprove most strongly of spring bear hunting. Prior to this vote, Washington was one of only eight states in the country that allow a spring bear hunt. 

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