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frankm3
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PostTue Nov 02, 2004 5:34 pm 
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I was looking around at a WDFW brochure with all the big game hunting regulations in it and was dismayed/ unhappy to find that the practice of hunting sows (mother bears) with cubs present, is still a legal hunting practice in Washington.  While hunters are 'urged not to shoot sows with cubs', it is not outright illegal like it is elsewhere.

Before delving into this topic I will openly state that while I do not hunt personally, I have no problem with those who do in principle.  This specific issue is troublesome to me on account of the fact that given that since there are 30,000+ black bears living in Washington (one of the highest populations in the US), there should be no shortage of available bears to shoot without having to resort to inhumane acts.  See below for comparison with other states with similar (high) populations. 

Personally, I consider this practice to be both inhumane and poor wildlife mangement practice; not only do the orphaned animal's chances for survival decrease drastically; but it is also more likely that a bear of this sort will ultimately have negative interactions with/ come into conflict with humans- either through desparation and starvation, or through curiousity, which the typically attendant sow would likely discourage.

As a giver of perspective, this practice is illegal in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Oregon (taking of sow with 1st year cubs only).  All of these states; Alaska, Montana, and Idaho (in addition to Washington) possess the highest black bear populations in the US.

It seems to me that at the least, Washington is behind the times in ending this inhumane practice; there are no benefits that I can see other than 'population control'.   Having said that, the other states with similar or higher bear populations have found other means to control the populations without resorting to practices such as this.

This is a topic which I would personally like to weigh in on with the WDFW; not because I am in any way anti-hunting, but because there are ample animals available for the taking without resorting to taking mothers with their cubs.

Any insight you guys could provide would be appreciated, as well as some info on how I could actually go about contacting the right types of folks that would be able to affect a shift in policy in this regard.
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Alan Bauer
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PostTue Nov 02, 2004 7:57 pm 
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Hi Frank--

I don't know specific offices within WDFW that would best be targeted to start looking into this more. However, I do have names of a few people that would likely KNOW where to point you. These are people that I know and communicate with when dealing with photo sales with the WDFW in the past, but they are urban biologists, public information officers, and things like that so they are "in there" in knowing a lot throughout the agency.

First off, I have nothing but the highest regards toward the WDFW, both as an agency as well as individual workers who I have really enjoyed getting to know. So I can't imagine them at least hearing anything that you have to say and with very intelligent responses guide you to the right areas, or guide you to understand why things are as they are.

OK...here is the name of the main public information officer for the entire Eastern Washington region, based out of Spokane. Madonna Luers is a very responsive person in this role and has always gotten back to me very quickly. Email is a perfect way to contact her if you are most comfortable that way. While Spokane may not be the office to target, she will know a lot and if not having the answers herself will know who you can contact.

Madonna Luers, Public Information Officer
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
N. 8702 Division St., Spokane, WA 99218
509-456-4073
FAX 509-456-4071
LUERSMEL@dfw.wa.gov


The other local person I have worked with the most is the main urban biologist for the Western Washington region based out of Mill Creek, WA. Russell Link has helped me in many ways over the past 2-3 years and is an expert in dealing with wildlife...and how to co-exist and live with them (see his book "Living with Wildlife in the Pacific NW" if you want to see his work on this regard). He knows a lot about wildlife and again, while not maybe being able to answer the why's to this is occuring in Washington, he likely has others who do---he works around a lot of biologists there in the Mill Creek office and they will point you in a direction.

Russell Link
Urban Wildlife Biologist
Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
16018 Mill Creek Blvd.
Mill Creek, WA 98012
(425) 775-1311 ext. 110
linkrel@dfw.wa.gov

It may well be that biologists have a fully different opinion within the agency than what the rules are too! Please keep me posted as to what you find out. I am fully with you in having full support for those that do hunt, but in cases of ample critters for "harvest" there are some that should be left behind....

Another environmental impact study biologist I know is Bill Wieler---a very experienced person who is quoted a ton in enviroment studies, another book author, etc.... But he is based out of the Vancouver office while working from his home way down in Lyle, WA. He may know stuff to help but I think I've given you leads to start out with.

I'd first email the Spokane PIO lady...she will be the most likely to give you direction.

Good luck in finding out interesting details! Alan
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frankm3
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PostWed Nov 03, 2004 11:19 am 
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Hi Alan!  Thanks for all the info!

I have already spoken to Madonna Luers in Spokane; she was really helpful and agreed to look into this for me; also left a message for a bear and cougar specialist in Olympia.

I am kind of hopeful that this might become one of those rare opportunities that one gets to personally affect some change; as above, I'd like to think that we as people are 'good' enough collectively to allow these creatures the chance to survive!

Frank
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frankm3
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 4:56 pm 
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Since I last wrote about this I have talked to a bear and cougar specialist with the WDFW and a Montana Enforcement Warden.

The first conversation with WDFW was to talk about the reasoning behind the (lack of) current law in WA.

At the end of the day, while (according to the bear/ cougar specialist), "nobody wants to shoot a mother bear with cubs", they feel it would be too difficult to enforce, or that a judge would just throw it out if the hunter's defense was "but honest, I never saw the cubs".

I then asked about if he had any knowledge of enforcement difficulty being an issue in the neighboring states. "No".

Those were exceedingly LAME reasons, IMO, to use a highly technical term.

Then I called and spoke with a Montana Enforcement Warden (what a NICE guy!), and we spoke about the enforcement policies of their state.

They actively enforce and prosecute offenses of this nature.  The warden, of course has some discretion in issuing citations in this regard to account for mitigating circumstances, etc.

I have determined that I am not satisfied with the answers I got from our state; in Montana (which one might argue is a more conservative state in many regards), they have chosen to maintain a higher standard of individual hunter responsibility; and the fact that this practice is illegal, as the Warden stated, makes it painfully clear to hunters that there are repercussions to their actions.  You can't even get a bear tag there without passing a bear ID test, as another example.

In addition, I have also spoken to a couple folks on the forum who I know to be active in lobbying for outdoors-related causes (protecting my accomplices until they care to be identified), who have told me about the legal process that is involved in getting this changed.  WOW; I never imagined how complex the process is to get a change made to a state law.

This whole process should be interesting.  I have never tried to get a law changed before; it'll be like my own miniature version of 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington'.

Anybody have any input or commentary?

Frank  <----fighting city hall
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polecatjoe
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 5:06 pm 
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Fight the power, Frank! I think this law is despicable and should be changed. I have brothers who hunt, and they would be outraged if they witnessed a sow with cubs being killed- it's ridiculous! mad.gif

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kleet
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 5:10 pm 
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Until you started the thread, I didn't realize hunting bear sows with cubs was legal. Seems like it wouldn't be that big of a deal to ban the practice here in Washington, especially knowing that all the surrounding states ban it. My brother-in-law is the only guy I know that hunts bears. I will have to get his take on the issue. Frank, I do thank you for your efforts so far!

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Lagerman
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 5:35 pm 
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Because its legal, doesnt mean its done a whole lot. Unfortunaly, theres dumb people out there.

Everyone I know wouldnt ever shoot a sow with cubs present, nor do they draw for doe/spike tags (OR)

I think Washington should put this one to bed too
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Jeepasaurusrex
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 6:08 pm 
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I also hunt bear, but I will NEVER shoot a sow that has cubs.   I passed on a huge sow a year ago because she had cubs.  Funny story with that too....

I walked within 15-20 feet from where they were in the trees, and continued around to the other side of the "bowl".  It was then that I spotted the sow.  I waited around for awhile to make sure she was alone before I pulled the trigger.  2 cubs eventualy appeared.  Im sure someone with far less patience would have dropped her when they first seen her (would of prolly been a trophy due to her size). I could see where someone could make the mistake of thinking there were no cubs with her. 

Thinking back on it, and how close I did walk to them, they day could have gone very wrong for one of us.  cool.gif

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frankm3
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 6:27 pm 
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Loggerman wrote:
Because its legal, doesnt mean its done a whole lot. Unfortunaly, theres dumb people out there.

Everyone I know wouldnt ever shoot a sow with cubs present, nor do they draw for doe/spike tags (OR)

I think Washington should put this one to bed too

I was hoping you would post on this!  I remember you had written somewhere that you had hunted bear before, or were a hunter in general.  It's good to get your input!

You would think it's fair/ reasonable to make this illegal?  If so, I think that's really encouraging!  To me, if responsible hunters like you think it's reasonable, than it seems like it is that much more possible to actually do something about this without pissing off the hunting community.

One of the other things the WDFW guy mentioned was that it's difficult to identify the sex of a bear.  If you only have a quick glance, he's right.  I also think it would be fair to say that a prudent, responsible hunter would require more than a quick glance to identify a prospective kill of any kind.

I will tell you that it has been quite obvious in my experience of seeing bears, that it's reasonably easy to tell males from females.   As far as sows and cubs go, it only takes the matter of an extra minute or two tops to be sure.  Every time I have seen a sow with cubs, it's almost like they're inside a moving 'invisible fence'; they NEVER leave mom.

I was reading the bear harvest reports for 2003; in discussing with someone via PM they mentioned 500 sows were taken last year; I would imagine some had cubs; although we'll never know.  It would be interesting to see what happens to this number if this gets changed. 

The other thing the report mentioned was that a lot of bear hunting was 'incedental' to other hunts, meaning bear tags are cheap, the guy went out looking for an elk, and found a bear instead.

Another interesting WA bear fact; WDFW was saying that our bears tend to be smaller here than elsewhere on the basis of average size.  I'm not sure they know why....

Thanks for the kind words guys.....resuming fighting the power!




zzzzzz.jpg.jpg
any questions about the gender of this bear here?
 zzzzzz.jpg.jpg (28 KB)
File downloaded or viewed 184 time(s)

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Lagerman
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PostFri Nov 05, 2004 7:29 pm 
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Well, thats kinda a double edged sword there.

Its not complety easy to sex a bear smile.gif I aint against hunting sows, mainly for that reason, just sows with visable cubs.

Now you can't spend all day when you come across an animal to size up the situation. I understand to a degree why the law is that way(I didnt know it until you said something) the cub are usually sucking hind teat close to the mother, but maybe your up on a ridge looking down, you cant see no cubs, your in a tricky spot, alot of stuff could be a factor there. You take your shot, drop the bear. You give it alittle time and head down in there. Theres cubs................. Completly upsets you, cause you would have NEVER shot it, if u knew, and now you committed a crime.

Its not always easy to know if that bear has cubs, if you run across a bear you pretty much have to swing up and take just a second to size up the situation. So to a degree I understand why the law is intact.

Anyone who hunts bear could be cought in a situation like I described.

BUT

Like I said, I wouldnt, no one I know would, and I look down upon the act of doing so.

Thinking it through......I am still deeply thinking about it.....

You are really inclined to ban something as STUPID as shooting a sow with cubs, BUT, you also wonder how many good honest people that just got caught in a situation that you had no idea there were cubs there, and just by that slight accident of a cub hiding in some brush there now a criminal.

.....hmmm....I would be so much simplar if every just practiced good sportsmanship and game harvest...
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frankm3
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PostSat Nov 06, 2004 10:12 am 
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Hey Cody, Thanks for all the input!  Don't go off tryin' to sex any bears now!  You could get hurt!

Remember, we're not talking about trying to make hunting all sows illegal, just the ones with cubs like we're talking about here.

You had described a couple of likely scenarios that seemed like they would be the kind of situation where someone is trying to do the right thing, but still might get written up anyway.

To me, that would be the kind of situation where the enforcement warden has the discretion to consider the facts of the case, and then decide whether the matter is worth writing a ticket over or not.  The guy I spoke with in MT seemed like a completely reasonable guy; maybe that hasn't been y'alls experience in dealing with enforcement guys here in WA.

Like I think you said in a different way, the whole thing relies on the honor system; while that's fine for people like you and me, I don't know if I am willing to grant that level of trust to the population in general.

When I was up in Alaska this summer, there was an incident right near where I was where someone shot 5 grizzlies (a couple were cubs) and just left them all to rot.  Granted, that ain't here, but it starts to show some of the truly bad stuff people are capable of doing.
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frankm3
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PostSat Nov 06, 2004 10:20 am 
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Jeepasaurusrex wrote:
I also hunt bear, but I will NEVER shoot a sow that has cubs.   I passed on a huge sow a year ago because she had cubs.  Funny story with that too....

I walked within 15-20 feet from where they were in the trees, and continued around to the other side of the "bowl".  It was then that I spotted the sow.  I waited around for awhile to make sure she was alone before I pulled the trigger.  2 cubs eventualy appeared.  Im sure someone with far less patience would have dropped her when they first seen her (would of prolly been a trophy due to her size). I could see where someone could make the mistake of thinking there were no cubs with her. 

Thinking back on it, and how close I did walk to them, they day could have gone very wrong for one of us.  cool.gif

Thanks for sharing JR!

What a great example!  As we're discussing, this is EXACTLY the kind of responsible hunting behavior that I am advocating.

How long do you think you waited until you saw the cubs?

In my experience, if you're quiet and don't surprise the animal, it's probably not going to split, right?  Whenever I have been 'made' by a bear, they mostly split around here it seems; up in Alaska, they could have cared less.

If you have good wind and cover, my guess is you can watch the animal for as long as you'd like pretty much; when 'unbothered' they don't seem to do a whole lot of anything really fast if they don't have to.
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PostSat Nov 06, 2004 1:39 pm 
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Quote:
Its not always easy to know if that bear has cubs,

True enough. Nor is it easy sometimes to tell if a deer has spikes. Or even if it isn't a cow (or person) by some reports. That's no excuse.  You can't just shoot first and ask questions later.  It goes against basic hunting ethic. If you aren't sure, let it go. Speaking of hunting ethic that sure didn't happen this morning. Some fool shot off about two dozen rounds or more in the field below our house. Either a really bad shot or a massacre. Neither very comforting. Scared the heck out of the dogs. I'm headed down there right now to assess the carnage.
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Lagerman
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PostSat Nov 06, 2004 2:25 pm 
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Quote:
True enough. Nor is it easy sometimes to tell if a deer has spikes. Or even if it isn't a cow (or person) by some reports. That's no excuse.

Thats not a very good example. First, you can shoot bears no matter what there sex is. A deer you can only shoot if its a buck, or a bull with elk. Its extremly easy to tell if that buck has horns before you shoot it, and that it aint a person. Unless your  totaly damn retard.

I am saying that there are situations that could come up, and no matter what you do to check, that sow could still have cubs. You could sit there 10 minutes, and that sow still could have cubs. So your little lecture there is unfounded to any real sportsman, and the only person that it would reflect upon would be the idiots out there, but they need a hell of alot more than a discussion on shooting sows with cubs.

Bear are differnt than deer, hard to tell male and fem apart. To compare the two different shooting situation would be silly. There night and day.
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PostSat Nov 06, 2004 2:37 pm 
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Quote:
Some fool shot off about two dozen rounds or more in the field below our house. Either a really bad shot or a massacre. Neither very comforting. Scared the heck out of the dogs. I'm headed down there right now to assess the carnage.

And I would hope that you come back and tell us the rest of the story with this. As of right now you have tarnished hunters in a public forum without knowing the slightest of what happend.

Maybe they were target practicing? Who knows. But two say it like that is highly unresponsible and its how good people get bad reputations. down.gif
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