The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved changes to the fall bear-hunting rules during a conference call on June 28.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, asked department staff to review and provide a recommendation for black bear season rule changes at a meeting earlier this year.
During the June meeting in Port Angeles, department staff presented two recommendations to simplify bear-killing regulations and make them consistent statewide.
The first recommended change standardized the statewide season start date to Aug. 1. The new season start date provides more hunting days in six of the 11 hunting areas.
The second change standardized a two-bear bag limit statewide. The previous rule allowed for harvest of two bears during the season, but only one could be from the east side of the state.
“Our field biologists are currently conducting new hair snare monitoring in two districts to learn more about our current black bear populations,” said Eric Gardner, Fish and Wildlife program director. “We chose to bring these two changes forward because they will simplify the regulations and have little impact on our goal of maintaining sustainable black bear populations in Washington.”
The commission approved the rule changes with a 6-1 vote. The changes will take effect Aug. 1.
Fish and Wildlife staff will continue hair snare monitoring for several years. This monitoring will inform the department’s black bear management and provide better information to assess Washington’s black bear populations.
“We’d like to remind hunters that they are required to report on their black bear season through the WILD System by Jan. 31, 2020,” said Gardner. “Also, we’d like to remind hunters to submit the bear tooth samples on or before the January date as well. Submitting these reports and samples improves our harvest data quality, which informs our black bear management decisions.”
Fish and Wildlife will seek additional public comment when officials consider changes to all hunting-related rules during the three-year season setting process in summer 2020.
In most U.S. states and Canadian provinces where they are found, black bears are legally classified as game animals and can be hunted. Black bear hunters legally harvest an estimated 50,000 North American bears each year.
Black bears are also illegally killed for their gall bladders, paws, claws and genitalia for use in traditional Asian medicines. It is unknown how many black bears are poached, according to Western Wildlife Outreach.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.