A WDFW hunting promotion sent out today to put in for spring bear tags came with an unusual caveat: 2021’s two-month season might not happen.
“Please be aware that the spring bear rule that governs this hunt is currently being challenged through litigation,” reads an email from the agency. “The pending litigation could result in cancellation of this hunt.”
That would be a reference to the lawsuit filed around New Year’s in Thurston County Superior Court by two sisters.
Martha Hall of Anacortes and Share Stroble of Seattle claim that last year WDFW didn’t “properly notify the public that it was considering approval of the spring bear hunt,” and what word state hunting managers did put out “characterized the rule amendment authorizing the hunt as merely an ‘editorial’ change” to 2020’s seasons – which had already occurred last spring – and not the upcoming hunt, per the Spokane Spokesman-Review.
They had threatened to sue before the Fish and Wildlife Commission last December voted 8-1 to go ahead and make “minor” changes to the hunt, including standardizing season dates to April 15-June 15 for the 668 special tags available this year, and other tweaks. The citizen panel did vow to “continue discussion of the broader topic in the future.”
The hunt had drawn an unusual amount of opposition in the build-up to that decision, but also strong support from the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council of Spokane.
There has been increasing focus on predator management in the Evergreen State – cougars, wolves, coyotes and now bears – and elsewhere on the West Coast. In California, a state senator recently proposed banning all bear hunting, despite a reported population of 30,000 to 40,000 bruins.
Most spring bear hunts occur in the Washington’s northeast and southeast corners. They are meant to provide a limited hunting opportunity, reduce timber damage by hungry bears, increase fawn and elk calf survival, and minimize the odds of bruin-human conflict. WDFW urges hunters to not shoot sows with cubs.
The spring bear special permit application period runs through February 28.
WDFW says that if it’s cancelled due to the lawsuit, “we will notify hunters accordingly and identify next steps.”