Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 6, 2019


Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004,

Washington Timberlands Bear Hunting Program’s Fate to Be Decided at Friday Hearing

OLYMPIA, Wash.— The cruel use of hounds and bait to hunt black bears on Washington timberlands could halt Friday at a hearing on the Center for Biological Diversity’s legal challenge to those hunting methods. The hearing will be held at Thurston County Superior Court.

Years ago Washington’s voters outlawed black bear hunting by the inhumane methods of baiting, hound hunting and trapping. But the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife continues to authorize these methods to protect private, commercial timber stands. There is no proof the bears being killed are damaging trees.

“The outrageous use of such cruel and unsporting methods to kill these beautiful bears has to stop,” said Sophia Ressler, Washington wildlife advocate and staff attorney with the Center. “Indiscriminately killing black bears with no evidence that problem bears are being targeted is horrible and is against the law and the will of Washington residents.”

Friday’s hearing will determine whether the program can continue as it currently exists or whether the agency needs to create new rules that comply with the ban on cruel hunting methods.

The Center’s legal challenge argues that the agency’s rules violate both state law and the will of Washington voters. The challenge also says the wildlife department has intentionally hidden the program allowing hunters to use banned methods.

The court stopped the agency from issuing new permits in June 2018 in response to a motion the Center filed earlier that month.

What: A legal hearing will determine the fate of black bear hunting on Washington timberlands and the legal challenge to its cruel methods.

When: Friday, Aug. 9, 1:30 p.m.

Where: Thurston County Superior Court, 2000 Lakeridge Drive Southwest, Building 3, Olympia, WA 98502

Who: The hearing is open to the public. Center staff will be in attendance and available for interviews.

After emerging from hibernation in the spring, hungry black bears sometimes peel the bark from trees to eat the calorie-dense sapwood. Even-aged stands of trees in industrial forests lack other natural food sources and are particularly vulnerable to damage from bears seeking to replenish their depleted fat stores.

The state wildlife department purportedly authorizes the killing of black bears to protect commercial timber stands from black bears. But without any evidence that the program targets tree-damaging bears, the department has created a private hunting season for a favored group of hunters, allowing them to kill bears using methods outlawed by the state’s voters.

In 1996 and 2000, Washington voters approved Initiatives 655 and 713, which banned the killing of black bears using bait, dogs and traps. The initiatives contained limited exceptions for targeting animals that cause property damage. The lawsuit notes that the department’s program does not fall within these narrow exceptions.

In June 2018 the court ruled that no further permits could be issued under this program until the court heard the facts of the case and determined whether the department would need to create new rules.

Then, in February, state officials announced they would consider amendments to the regulations governing the program. The Center is asking the court to invalidate the current rules and prohibit the issuance of any more hunting permits until the department comes into compliance.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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