WDFW votes to rewrite hunting regulations


The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted earlier this month, 7-2, to initiate the process of rewriting hunting regulations for cougars and black bears. This move follows a petition submitted by environmental groups urging stricter limits on hunting these two species, asserting that prior rule changes had led to unsustainable population declines.

The petition, filed by Washington Wildlife First, the Mountain Lion Foundation, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Humane Society of the United States in October, argued that loosened hunting regulations had adversely affected bear and cougar populations and called for previous commission decisions. A letter signed by 50 carnivore scientists supported a change to regulations.

The petition called for reducing the bear bag limit and establishing different hunting guidelines for cougars, although no specifics were discussed.

WDFW staff contended that the existing rules hadn’t resulted in significant increases in predator killings; they said there is potential for improvement in their models.

The commission sided with the petitioners, highlighting concerns that the previous changes lacked scientific grounding and had already harmed these populations.

Commission chair Barbara Baker emphasized the need for swift action, suggesting that changes might be implemented before the hunting seasons restart in August 2024. The next several months will involve work between WDFW and its commission.

In 2018-23, there was a 49 percent increase in bear harvests, and 2,211 black bears were killed during the 2022-23 hunting season.