Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, October 25, 2023


Claire Loebs Davis, Washington Wildlife First, (206) 601-8476,
Collette Adkins, Center for Biological Diversity, (651) 955-3821,
Dan Paul, The Humane Society of the United States, (206) 240-3804,

Legal Petition Seeks Science-Based Hunting Reforms for Washington’s Cougars, Bears

OLYMPIA, Wash.— Wildlife conservation groups today petitioned the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission to amend state hunting rules for cougars and bears. The legal petition asks the commission to restrict killings of these ecologically important carnivores to avoid overexploitation and population declines, and to better align policy with agency science.

If granted, the rulemaking petition would reverse the commission’s 2019 and 2020 expansions of cougar and bear hunting, which resulted in a 50% increase in the number of bears killed each year and kept cougar mortality above levels recommended by agency scientists. Among other things, the petition asks state wildlife managers to immediately close cougar hunting upon reaching area-specific quotas and institute a statewide “bag limit” of one bear per hunter.

“It’s shortsighted and unscientific to allow hunters to kill so many of Washington’s bears and cougars,” said Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation program director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The state’s own biologists have found that killing cougars at current levels will likely lead to population declines and more conflicts with people. The commission needs to fix this, now.”

“In 2019 and 2020, the department decided to disregard the important work of its own carnivore biologists in its rush to placate special interests,” said Claire Loebs Davis, president of Washington Wildlife First. “We are asking the commission to return to a science-based management policy before it is too late for the state’s cougars and bears.”

“Since 2020, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has allowed trophy hunters to kill unsustainable numbers of rare and important cougars and black bears,” said Dan Paul, Washington state director at the Humane Society of the United States. “With this citizen petition, new policy makers now have an opportunity to correct this mistake and follow the best available science, including by the agency’s own wildlife biologists, who spent years in Washington conducting field research.”

“As a Washington resident, I look forward to my wildlife commissioners bringing this era of needless and ruthless overhunting to an end,” said R. Brent Lyles, executive director of the Mountain Lion Foundation. “Cougars and bears are critically important keystone species, and Washington’s current policies fly in the face of decades of research. It's time to bring scientific thinking back to the forefront of our state's decision-making processes. Washingtonians and our imperiled wildlife deserve nothing less."

The commission has 60 days to respond to today’s petition.

The petition was filed by Washington Wildlife First, Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States, Mountain Lion Foundation, WildFutures, Predator Defense, Coexisting with Cougars in Klickitat County, and Kettle Range Conservation Group.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

Together with millions of supporters, the Humane Society of the United States takes on puppy mills, factory farms, the fur trade, trophy hunting, animal cosmetics testing and other cruel industries. Through our rescue, response and sanctuary work, as well as other direct services, we help thousands of animals in need every year. We fight all forms of animal cruelty to achieve the vision behind our name: a humane society.

Washington Wildlife First is dedicated to reforming Washington’s management of its fish and wildlife, to change the focus from killing wildlife to protecting healthy and resilient ecosystems that will be better prepared to survive the dual crises of climate change and global biodiversity loss.

The Mountain Lion Foundation's mission is to ensure that America's lion survives and flourishes in wild. With members in all 50 states and beyond, our work champions broad protections for mountain lions and their habitats across the United States; cultivates proactive, community-based coexistence for people and lions; and fosters appreciation of mountain lions and their ecological significance.

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