It’s been 19 years since a voter- approved initiative eliminated baiting and use of hounds to hunt bears in Washington.
Since then, most of the hunting of bears has been what’s known as “incidental,” meaning that deer and elk hunters often buy bear tags in case they see one, said Madonna Luers, spokes- woman in Spokane for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Since both practices were banned in 1995 in Washington “there was a drop in bear hunting in general,” Luers said. “It’s since picked up. The hardcore bear hunters are still there. Guys who really want to hunt bears know they have to climb high and get into the berry patches.”
Hunting bears over bait, or with hounds, remains legal in most places in Idaho.
After 1995, Idaho actually had several hunters relocate there rather than give up their hounds, Barb Moore, a regional wildlife biologist with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said.
“Those hunters had a lot of money invested in those dogs. And a lot of people enjoy hunting with them,” Moore said.
Nonresidents can bring dogs to hunt in Idaho, but only if they secure one of the 70 tags issued statewide that allows visitors to hunt with dogs.
“Each year we have about 120 to 130 people who put in for those tags, which are awarded in a lottery system,” she said.
While much of North Idaho is open to baiting and hunting, the department doesn’t allow those practices in Unit 1, which is the hunting area farthest north in the Idaho Panhandle. That decision was made because of possible interactions with grizzly bears, Moore said.
“Safety is a concern,” she said. “But more so, the idea is not to habituate grizzly bears to non-natural food sources.”
In Washington, bear season is open between Aug. 1 and Sept. 1, depending on the region and unit. Bear season closes statewide on Nov. 15.
In North Idaho, the bear season runs from Aug. 30 to either Oct. 31 or Nov. 30, depending on the unit.
Anyone seeking to hunt bears with bait must also obtain a baiting permit issued by Fish and Game.
Other than Unit 1, Idaho also has a few other units elsewhere in the state that don’t allow dogs or baiting.
Hunters should consult applicable state regulations before planning any outings.
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