Wildlife board rejects spring bear hunting, again

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OLYMPIA – It took only a minute Friday, Aug. 11, for the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to reject a petition to resume spring bear hunting in 2024.

The commission’s almost-immediate, unanimous rejection of spring bear hunting followed a very short presentation by state Department of Fish and Wildlife Game Division Manager Anis Aoude.

“From our position as a department … we’re recommending you deny this petition,” he said. “There really isn’t a reason to revisit.”

The state’s presentation and commissioner’s fast rejection followed a petition to begin rule-making for a 2024 spring bear hunt filed by state resident Brad Thomsen on July 14.

Thomsen noted that resuming a spring bear hunt protects cubs, as hunters are afforded an opportunity to hunt a limited number of adult males, called “boars.”

According to Thomsen, boars coming out of hibernation each spring are “hyper-aggressive.”

“The ideal spring bear hunting season would reduce the number of male black bears, and allow females and their cubs to have a better chance at survival,” he wrote in his petition.

Several outdoorsmen appeared during the meeting to support the petition.

Kim Thorburn of Spokane said the petition gave the commission an opportunity to “rectify a seriously mistaken action” of ending spring bear hunting.

“The longstanding, limited-entry spring bear hunt was a popular recreational activity that also provided management benefits,” she said.

According to Thorburn, prior to 2022, a spring bear hunt was normal, with biologists using scientific data to guide commissioners in determining how many black bear tags should be offered.

But the apparent anti-hunting commission changed that.

“The commission has yet to provide a valid rationale for terminating the season all together,” she said, accusing state wildlife officials from ignoring the voices of rural residents.

Hunter Spencer Burdick of Lewis County, too, called on the commission to fulfill its legal obligation to provide a hunting season.

It’s not the commission’s job to “take hunts and opportunity away from the public,” he said.

Hunter Jon Dykes of King County told commissioners its actions like that which are responsible for the outdoor community’s mistrust of the board.

“I’ve been here since the beginning of the whole spring bear thing,” he said. “It’s getting more apparent to me that the commission is anti-hunting.

“The spring bear was just about to set seasons. Next thing you know, there’s no more spring bear hunting.”

Dykes chastised commissioners for telling him to “hire my own biologists.” He also chastised commissioners for being caught up in “social science,” rather than real science.

He wasn’t the only one to chastise commissioners for blocking until and instating failed predator management plans.

“Your priorities lie in the face of social politics,” he said. “So go ahead, offer your resignations. All eyes are on you.

“Your personal agendas are not popular.”

Commission members are Barbara Baker of Thurston County, Molly Linville of Reardan, James Anderson of Buckley, John Lehmkuhl of Wenatchee, Woody Myers of Spokane, Steve Parker of Yakima, Tim Ragen of Anacortes, Melanie Rowland of Methow Valley and Lorna Smith of Jefferson County.

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Roger Harnack, Publisher

Roger Harnack is the co-owner/publisher of Free Press Publishing. Having grown up Benton City, Roger is an award-winning journalist, photographer, editor and publisher. He’s one of only two editorial/commentary writers from Washington state to ever receive the international Golden Quill. Roger is dedicated to the preservation of local media, and the voice it retains for Eastern Washington.

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