ARCHIVED NEWS RELEASE
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These are some of the questions answered in a new, color brochure published by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. The free brochure is available at the department's Olympia headquarters and regional offices statewide.
"We hope the brochure will help people learn the differences between this state's two bears," Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Bern Shanks said. "It's especially important for black bear hunters to take the time to learn how to tell the species apart."
Washington state is home to both the black bear and grizzly bear. Black bears are abundant and listed as a game species. The animal is hunted under regulations set by the nine-member state Fish and Wildlife Commission.
The grizzly, however, is rare and listed as endangered by the state. Less than a dozen grizzlies are believed to inhabit the North Cascades, and about two dozen are estimated to live in the Selkirk Mountains of northeast Washington and north Idaho.
Because the grizzly is protected by both the state and federal government, shooting one is illegal and can result in stiff penalties.
"It's really the responsibility of the hunter to know the difference between a black bear and grizzly," Shanks said. "This is critical if current efforts to protect and rebuild the grizzly population are to be successful." To assist hunters in learning the differences between the two species, the brochure offers a "photo quiz" of eight color pictures. The pictures show black bears and grizzlies in different poses. The brochure describes how to tell whether a particular picture is of a black bear or a grizzly based on such characteristics as the animal's ear size and shape, facial structure, claw size, and whether it has a distinctive shoulder hump (a unique trait of the grizzly).
The brochure also offers advice on how to store food at camp sites, and what to do in the rare event a person encounters a black bear or grizzly. For example, it instructs people not to run if they encounter a bear, and to avoid eye contact, which bears perceive as a threat.
The publication also contains a map indicating black bear range, and areas where efforts to rebuild the grizzly bear population are underway.