The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife uses the spring bear season as a tool in the game management toolbox and the permit system allows WDFW biologists to carefully control the populations. The amazing biodiversity of Washington creates a complex management issue that requires a multi-faceted approach. Failure to effectively manage predator numbers, especially in the spring, can be detrimental to fawn/calf survival rates. Hunters strive to protect all wildlife populations including both predator and prey.
Our state, especially Eastern Washington, has an increasing predator population as wolves and grizzly bears re-establish. We must be proactive to maintain the proper balance between predators and prey so that we can protect both groups. Banning predator hunting or removing hunting seasons will have a direct impact on the deer, elk and moose (ungulate) populations. Spring is a crucial time in the ungulate reproduction cycle, it is also the time when fawns/calves are most vulnerable to bears. Bears are opportunistic hunters who feed on the tall spring grasses that fawns/calves hide in. While in these seemingly safe areas fawns/calves are particularly vulnerable to predation by bears.
Carefully monitored spring bear hunting seasons can help relieve some of the pressure that ungulate young face from hungry bears just coming out of hibernation. With careful attention to the balance, we can achieve several goals; protecting ungulate young, balance predator numbers, reduce human/predator conflict, while offering quality recreation opportunities. Maintaining spring bear seasons and working closely with WDFW biologists can ensure that we protect and even improve our predator and prey populations.