OLYMPIA— A spring, permit-controlled black bear hunt in the Blue Mountains and a streamlined regulation process for prospectors were approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its recent meeting at SeaTac.
The commission voted 6 to 2 to approve the bear-hunting changes.
The adopted hunting changes, effective in 1999, include:
- A permit-controlled black bear hunt from April 15 through May 16 in seven game management units in Southeast Washington's Blue Mountains black bear management area. A total of 70 black-bear hunting permits will be issued for the spring hunt.
- A shorter fall black bear season in the same area, with a new area hunting opener on the first day after Labor Day (Sept. 7).
- An increase in the annual cougar bag limit from one to two animals per hunter.
A half-dozen speakers objected to the spring bear hunt as cruel and inhumane because it could result in new bear cubs being orphaned when their mothers were killed.
In response to concerns about orphaned bear cubs, Steve Pozzanghera, carnivore manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, explained that the percentage of female bears taken in a spring hunt should be less than in the fall because bears with cubs are less active in the spring. He said nursing females are the last group of bears to emerge from dens and are the most sedentary because of the lack of mobility of small cubs and because females avoid areas frequented by male bears. It has been documented that male bears will prey upon cubs. Pozzanghera added that the department would prepare education materials to help hunters distinguish male from female bears.
In other action, the commission unanimously adopted an updated prospecting rules package which allows prospectors working in and near streams to follow provisions in a rules pamphlet rather than seeking individual hydraulic permit applications (HPA) from the department.
The so-called "gold and fish" rules were modified to excuse children under age 8 from a requirement that each group of five people digging space themselves 200 feet apart. A number of prospectors complained that the originally proposed spacing requirement could pose a safety risk for young children in prospecting parties working near water.