OLYMPIA, Wash.— The state of Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-4 today to suspend a proposed 2022 spring bear-hunting season. The spring hunt, which the commission reviews annually, required a majority to authorize, so the tie vote puts the hunt on hold.
“This vote is a huge win for Washington’s black bears and all our wildlife and ecosystems,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Pausing this hunt to properly analyze the risks will allow for reasoned decision making, and I hope the commission listens to the majority of folks in the state who want these cruel spring hunts to finally come to an end.”
More than 100 people testified on the issue during a Zoom meeting held before the commission Oct. 22. The vast majority — over 90% — asked the commission to ban outright the special-permit spring bear hunt or wait to make a decision until more science and information were provided.
Many experts and members of the public voiced concern over the possibility of bear cubs being orphaned when mother bears are killed during the hunt. Most who testified also expressed concern about the flawed management rationale, lack of transparency during the rulemaking process, and absence of relevant information to support the decision.
Bears emerge from their dens in the spring in a very vulnerable state, struggling to gain weight after winter hibernation. This is particularly challenging for mother bears, who must also feed their cubs. In previous years Washington allowed hunters with a special permit to target black bears during this time.
Prior to today’s vote, Washington was 1 of only 8 states in the country that allowed a spring bear hunt. Black bears are found in 41 states.