If you've been cleaning your gun and packing up gear for northeast Washington's black bear hunting season, there's no need to rush: the opener in game management units 101 through 117 isn't until Sept. 5 this year.
For the past three years the northeast season opened Aug. 1, (as it still does in some other parts of the state), to allow hunters to take advantage of high bear populations. Bear populations are lower and the northeast season will return to its traditional September opening this year.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) made the recommendation to the Commission at its April meeting when hunting seasons were set. The shortened season is meant to avoid the take of too many bears.
"The increased harvest was likely the result of poor wild berry crops which pushed bears to forage in areas where they were more vulnerable to hunters," explained Steve Zender, WDFW northeast district wildlife biologist. "The return to the traditional September opener will reduce the likelihood of overharvest, no matter what the conditions."
Zender said there is still a good bear population in the northeast units and hunter success should be high. About 10 percent of northeast black bear hunters usually bag a bear, (slightly above the statewide average of 9 percent), totaling nearly 30 percent of the statewide harvest.
"The shortened season will just mean fewer total bears taken and conservation of the resource over time," Zender said.
All black bear hunting season opening dates and other rules are printed on page 28 of WDFW's "Big Game Hunting Seasons and Rules" pamphlet. Hunters should be aware that hunting in closed units is a gross misdemeanor.