Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, May 31, 2018

Contact: Collette Adkins, (651) 955-3821,

Lawsuit Targets Washington's Cruel Killing of Black Bears on Timberlands

State Agency Illegally Authorizes Hunting Methods Banned by Voters

SEATTLE— The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife today to stop its illegal program of using inhumane and unsporting methods like bait, traps and hounds — outlawed by state voters — to kill hundreds of black bears on private timberlands.

“It’s so sad that Washington’s bears continue to be killed by barbaric methods banned by the state’s voters,” said Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and attorney who represents the environmental group in the lawsuit. “State wildlife officials need to stop 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.

“In passing initiatives to ban these heartless hunting practices, voters said clearly that inhumane bear-hunting methods aren’t acceptable in Washington,” Adkins said. “The fish and wildlife department’s bear-killing program is cruel, ineffective and ecologically harmful. We need to stop it.”

Since 2010 the department has authorized the killing of approximately 900 black bears using bait, dogs and traps on private commercial timberland. Along with in-house counsel, attorneys at the law firm of Lane Powell are representing the Center in this litigation.

Black bear

Photo by Steve Maslowski, USFWS. Images are available for media use.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.6 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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