By WAN –
June 18, 2018
On Friday, a state court stopped the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife from issuing any additional permits authorizing inhumane and unsporting methods like bait, traps, and hounds, which have been outlawed by state voters, to kill black bears on private timberlands.
The much-needed ruling comes in a challenge to the illegal program filed by the Center for Biological Diversity last month.
“This ruling will save numerous bears from a cruel death, and that’s a big relief,” said Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and attorney who represents the environmental group in the lawsuit. “The court is suspending this illegal program that allows a small group of hunters to shoot bears over bait, chase them with hounds and catch them in traps.”
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 Fish and 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.
On June 6, 2018, the Center filed a “motion for temporary relief” requesting that the court prohibit any further killing of bears until it issues its final decision later this year. While the new ruling does not suspend permits already issued by the department, it prevents the state agency from issuing any additional permits.
“We’re disappointed the court’s ruling still allows bear killing under permits already issued by the department,” said Adkins. “We think the court will ultimately decide that those permits should never have been issued, and we urge the department to immediately suspend all outstanding permits.”
Since 2010 the department has authorized the killing of approximately 900 black bears using bait, dogs, and traps on private commercial timberland.
“In ruling against the department, the court recognized the risk to bears and the merits of our case against this inhumane bear-killing program,” Adkins said. “Now we’ll focus on shutting down the program for good.”
Under state law, the Center must post a bond, and then the court’s suspension of the program will become effective, most-likely beginning today.