Spring black bear hunt to be reconsidered by Washington wildlife commission Friday

Spring black bear hunt to be reconsidered by Washington wildlife commission Friday

Eli Francovich / The Spokesman-Review

A controversial hunt is being reconsidered by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission, months after the commission voted to suspend spring bear hunting in 2022.

The commission will hear a briefing and take public comments on proposed spring black bear special permits during its Friday virtual meeting. In November, the commission voted 4-4 on the proposed 2022 spring bear hunt. The nine-person commission is appointed by the governor to oversee WDFW. At the time one seat was empty and the tie led to a suspension of the hunt.

The commission is reconsidering the hunt decision after the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council filed a petition in December arguing that the proper public notice hadn’t been provided.

“A lot of people in the hunting community who didn’t know the season could expire,” said Marie Neumiller, the executive director of the council.

Since the tied vote, Commissioner Fred Koontz, a strong opponent of the hunt, resigned.

Opponents of the hunt aren’t happy it’s being reconsidered.

“This spring bear proposal is clearly an abuse of power by the few Commissioners who want the hunt. They capitalized on the loss of Commissioner Fred Koontz to push forward a proposal to open up the hunt after the Commission had already voted against it in November, said Dan Paul, the Washington state director for the Humane Society of the United States, in a news release. “It is appalling and reckless that they would change course and once again consider a hunt that serves absolutely no purpose for the species’ management and is a chance for trophy hunters to kill bears with ease when they are in a weakened, vulnerable state just waking up from winter hibernation. This is not conservation and serves no purpose. The time has come to stop spring bear hunts in our state.”

Agency biologists and managers recommended the commission approve the permit-only hunt, which has occurred in one form or another since 1999. The spring hunt is used to address timber damage, human-bear conflicts and concerns about fawn deer and elk survival, according to agency biologists. In the spring, black bears will eat just about anything, including fawns too young to flee. Per the proposed rule for the killed 2022 spring season, WDFW would have provided roughly 664 spring bear permits, with agency staff estimating hunters would have 145 black bears.

The Commission will take open public comment on Friday, March 11 for the spring black bear special permit rule proposal, according to an agency news release. In addition to general feedback on the topic, specific items that members of the public are invited to comment on include:

– The spring black bear rulemaking CR-102 (the notice used to publish the text of the proposed rule) that was filed Feb. 1, 2022.

– Responses prepared by WDFW staff to Commissioner questions following the Black Bear Spring Special Permit Rule

– Information on the topic shared at Fish and Wildlife Commission meetings on Jan. 21, 2022 and Nov. 19, 2021.

The Commission is scheduled to make a decision on spring black bear rule-making at its March 17-19 virtual meeting. More information on the proposed rule change is available at wdfw.wa.gov/about/regulations/development.

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