The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 5-4 on Friday to adopt a policy that forecloses spring black bear hunting, effectively ending the hunt unless the commission votes to reverse its decision in the future.
The new policy states the commission doesn’t support a recreational hunt of black bears in the spring, when black bear cubs could be orphaned.
“Ending this cruel, unnecessary and unpopular spring hunt is a big win for Washington’s black bears,” said Sophia Ressler, a staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “There’s no reason why hunters should be targeting vulnerable bears as they emerge from hibernation with babies to feed.”
A November 2021 vote cancelled the 2022 spring hunt. This new policy forecloses the commission from authorizing any future spring bear hunts. It follows years of public outcry from experts and community members voicing serious concern over the risk that killing nursing mother bears will orphan bear cubs.
Bears emerge from their dens in the spring in a 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 special permits to target black bears during this time.
“This vote was a long time coming, but it’s such welcome news,” said Ressler. “It will protect helpless young cubs and end the pointless cruelty of this solely recreational hunt.”
Prior to Friday’s vote, Washington was one of only eight states in the country that still allowed a spring bear hunt. Black bears are found in 41 states.