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Chloe Powell, February 1, 2021

You may have heard about bear hunting in several states which are undergoing the threat of permanent closures. Washington State in particular is currently undergoing the threat of lawsuits by two WA sisters, Martha Hall of Anacortes and Sharon Stroble of Seattle.  This took place after the WDFW went ahead with what they classified as ‘minor tweaks’ to the upcoming spring bear season. The changes that were made were: standardizing season dates (4/15-6/15), clarification of the harvested bear check-in process, and the reduction of Weyerhaeuser lands as well as a number of Long Beach permits.

The two sisters make their claims for a lawsuit based on the WDFW not making it known to the public that the 2021 spring bear season was being considered for approval. 

“Washington’s spring bear hunt is cruel and completely unnecessary, and I’m confident most Washingtonians would oppose it if they knew about it,” said Stroble, a retired professor of Outdoor Education at Seattle Pacific University. She then went on to say, “we understand that the department has the authority to authorize a spring bear hunt, but it also has a legal obligation to give Washington citizens the opportunity to speak up and have their voices heard about this abhorrent practice.”

Washington is one of only eight states in the nation that still allow spring bear hunts; the other seven states include Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, and Wyoming. The state is currently undergoing committee meetings and awaiting the outcome of this upcoming spring bear season. WDFW is leaving the application process open at this time, with a notice to hunters that states:

“Please be aware that the spring bear rule that governs this hunt is currently being challenged through litigation. The pending litigation could result in cancellation of this hunt. If this occurs, we will notify hunters accordingly and identify next steps”

Coming from the Pacific Northwest, I can personally attest to the fact that there is no shortage of bear population and these states have been making a concerted effort through working closely with biologists to ensure that the bear populations remains strong. Spring bear hunting is more than just a recreational activity for hunters who enjoy the sport. This seasonal, special draw hunt is in place for several reasons: to reduce timber damage by bears coming out of hibernation, to increase the chances of fawn and elk calf survival as well as the slow-growing WA moose population, and to reduce the chance of bear-human contact in urban areas. 

While the American people, and especially the residents of spring bear states, should have the right to vote in what is going on within their state, decisions based upon emotions and lacking information are incredibly detrimental. Hunting is a conservation effort that, when managed properly, creates thriving wildlife populations all across the board. That is why every state has a fish and wildlife department that works closely with biologists to ensure numbers are being managed properly and animals are not struggling to survive. 

We encourage dissenting citizens to attend meetings and voice their opinions, but ultimately, the decision should rest in the hands of the biologists and the fish and game commission. We hope to see spring bear hunting remain in Washington State this season and years to come.