Op-Ed: Advocate for Washington State Black Bears and Comment to Defeat a New Rule Allowing Spring Bear Hunting

Edited to add the commenting by emailing period has been extended until March 16th at 1159 PM.

I’ll admit it I am an unapologetic wildlife advocate and feel compelled to speak out against a proposed new rule that could permanently allow spring bear hunting in Washington State.

Black bears visit my valley yard from April to October every year. Starting in June 2020, I enjoyed watching a mom and cub hanging out together until October of 2021, when they separated.

While living with bears requires some lifestyle changes that were unnecessary in my hometown in the Seattle area, I’ve learned to co-exist with my furry neighbors and appreciate seeing them emerge each spring.

Our first spring bear sighting is always exciting and extra special when our resident bears have cubs in tow. We watch them in awe and wish to assure the mother bears’ ability to nurture and protect her cubs so they can grow into adulthood.

On November 19, 2021, the Fish & Wildlife Commission voted 4-4 not to approve the rule that would have established a 2022 spring bear hunt. Thousands of people had weighed in during the rulemaking process to oppose the trophy hunt, and more than a hundred people showed up to the rulemaking hearing to give testimony.

Commissioners who voted against the hunt emphasized that Department managers failed to substantiate the purported “management need” ”or the hunt. That management’s rationale contradicted the Department’s published science, annual game reports, and game management plan.

Following this vote, several trophy hunting organizations launched campaigns against the Commissioners who opposed the hunt, specifically targeting recent appointees Fred Koontz and Lorna Smith.

Commissioner Koontz resigned, citing a “political quagmire” ” as the reason for his departure. He and Commissioner Smith endured vicious attacks, including threats to their lives.

Before the vacant seat on the Commission could be filled, the four Commissioners supporting the hunt used their temporary advantage and voted 4-3 on January 21 to approve the rulemaking petitions, asking the Department to propose a new rule to allow spring bear hunting. Just three days later, the Governor appointed three new Commissioners.

Most people disapprove of spring bear hunting. Only 15% of people in Western states favor spring bear hunting. Although Washington has not been polled separately, we can assume opposition to spring bear hunting is even higher here.

Spring bear hunting receives much stronger disapproval than other controversial hunting methods, like hunting fenced animals or hunting with bait or dogs. Washington is one of only eight states that still allows spring bear hunting. The others are Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Arizona, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

WDFW singles bear out for spring hunting. Because of the stress that spring hunting puts on all wildlife populations as they recover from winter and rear their young, Washington does not allow spring hunting of any other species except turkey. We allow no hunting of newborns, except for bears and cougars.

Spring bear hunting violates fundamental principles of ethical hunting and “fair chase.” In spring, black bears are weak from hunger and sluggish from hibernation in their most vulnerable state. Food is scarce, requiring bears to forage in clearings with no cover.

This new rule would orphan bear cubs and leave them to die. Even though the new proposed rule purports to prohibit the killing of sows with cubs, state wildlife officials and other experts agree there is no way to prevent cubs from being orphaned during spring bear hunting. The hunts occur when the sows are still nursing cubs.

Hunters cannot distinguish between female and male bears, and nursing mothers will often stow their cubs in a safe place out of sight when they forage during the spring. Hunters are only required to have skins inspected – not carcasses – making lactation difficult to determine and monitor the effects of a spring hunt.

Tomorrow, March 11, the Commission will hear public testimony at a public hearing for the spring black bear special permit rule proposal.

The new proposed rule for spring bear hunting would make the season permanent. It was amended to remove the “2022” date, meaning that it would establish a permanent spring bear season that no longer requires yearly Commission approval.

In addition to general feedback on the topic, specific items that members of the public are invited to comment on include:

You may also leave comments by sending an email, either with or without an attachment, to SpringBearPetition102@PublicInput.com or by leaving a voicemail message at 855-925-2801 and entering project code 6453.

Public comments will be accepted until the close of the comment period on March 12, 2022, at 11:59 pm.

The Commission is scheduled to decide on spring black bear rulemaking at its March 17-19 virtual meeting. More information on the proposed rule change is available on WDFW’s webpage.

Members of the public interested in providing verbal public comments can pre-register on WDFW’s website. The Interim Chair may change the amount of time allotted for each speaker depending on the number of people registered.

This meeting will be conducted online and be available to the public to watch or listen via webinar or conference call. The session will also be recorded and posted online so people can watch it afterward at their convenience. To find more information on commenting and seeing agendas, visit WDFW’s website. 

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is a panel appointed by the Governor that sets policy for the WDFW. WDFW works to preserve, protect and perpetuate fish, wildlife and ecosystems while providing sustainable fish and wildlife recreational and commercial opportunities. 

Many Washingtonians do not often show up to speak about wildlife policy, which means organized hunting groups usually control the discussion. Please, comment and defeat this new rule on spring bear hunting if you care about Washington State bears.

Comments are closed.


  • In light of the rising frequency of human – grizzly bear conflicts, the Department of Fish and Game is advising hikers, hunters, and fishermen to take extra precautions and keep alert of bears while in the field. They advise that outdoorsmen wear noisy little bells on their clothing so as not to startle bears that aren’t expecting them.
    They also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear and grizzly bear dung.
    ~Black bear dung is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur.
    ~Grizzly bear dung has little bells in it and smells like pepper

    1. No way a bear family should be hunted in the Spring when there are new babies fresh out of the winter den. I doubt seriously that the bears need “managing” except for the entertainment of a few.

  • I am a bear hunter and this is my point by point rebuttal of your article. I hope you have the courage to approve this comment so that people can see all the facts and make their own determination.

    -Trophy hunting is a fabrication created by the anti hunting world. I take offense to this as do other hunters. Its used as a pajorative to say we are heartless bloodthirsty murderers. Which is far from the truth.

    -There is a wanten waste law preventing the waste of meat. You MUST by law take all viable meat from the animal in which you have killed.

    -Bear meat is considered to be the best big game meat available. When commercial hunting took place in North America bears were hunted for their meat. While deer where hunted to make buck skin pants. Which lead to the “buck” being the colloquial term for the dollar.

    -From a bear you gather more than any other big game animal. We take tye hide, skull, claws, meat and fat. All others this is not the case.

    -Stephanie Simek a WDFW bear biologist in the most recent meeting stated that she supports the hunt. And that bear populations are growing in the state.

    -Other state funded wdfw biologist have gone before the commission and stated that the hunt is sustainable and should take place.

    -The wdfw commission stated purpose is to allow and creat opportunity when it is sustainable. Which as stated By wdfw biologists is the case.

    -There is no such thing as a throphy hunting organization. We refer to them by their rightful name. Conservation groups/organizations.

    -What question or line of questioning was determined to reach the 15% number. Following the loss of an anti hunting bill filled in Colorado it was released that the survey used to show support for the bill used extremely biased questioning. In the line of “do you support throphy hunting of cougars for the fun of it so you can take a picture with a dead one and show your friends?”. This is a display that the supporters of the bill were not acting in good faith.

    -Bears are allowed to be hunted in the spring for the express reason of reducing the numbers of fawns and calves. In tge blue mountains only 9 of 125 collared calves born in 2021 remain due to predators killing them. Bears being the largest predator of calves and fawns. In some cases killing greater than 40%.

    -Additionally the bears mating season is in the spring. The hunt takes places prior to that period in just the same way that the deer hunt takes place just prior to their mating season making it an identical process/situation.

    -In the new rule making for the spring bear hunt the harvesting of a sow or cubs is prohibited. Regardless no hunter is targeting any newborn animal.

    -The idea that bears are lethargic or weak is a complete fabrication. In a study in Sweden a brown bear woke from hibernation and killed 38 calves.

    -Bears consume grass as a part of their spring diet as to “kick start” their digestion. Although it is a continued source of food fairly far into their year. This does not differ to how they feed in the open during other various parts of the year to include when the consume berries in the patches where they occur in fall. But any good bear hunter will tell you bears dont like to hang around in open clearings. Especially In areas with people, particularly hiker heavy areas. They will choose to stay in small secluded meadows out of view of people and other bears.

    -Over the previous years of spring bear harvest in which hundred of permits were issued the number of sows with cubs harvested was in the single digits. And that does not necessarily indicate an orphaned cub. Often cubs are killed by males to bring the female back into heat so that he can further his own genetics. The largest killer of cubs is male bears, which is exactly what hunters are targeting.

    -I have personally seen close to 100 bears and I can definitely determine whether a bear is male or female by observing it. All hubters are taught by the wdfw to use extra caution and patience so that you may determine to the best of your ability whether it is a sow with cubs. The further rule making it unlawful to harvest a sow with cubs puts an extra emphasis on this in particular.

    -You can with certainty determine that a sow was lactating based on the hide. This is the express reason that the WDFW established this rule.

  • That is false. Coyotes are hunted year-round with no limits. Their pups starve to death in tbe den, if not killed by other predators first. Coyotes, squirrels and many other species are shot with no law requiring consumption of the meat. That is wastage. That is treating a living animal with less repect than a beer can. That is unethical hunting and must end.

  • Living Snoqualmie