Tell state lawmakers to shoot down bear baiting bill!

Tell state lawmakers to shoot down bear baiting bill!

Conservation Northwest / Mar 05, 2015 /

WILD NW #242: Ask your legislators to oppose Substitute House Bill 1838

Black bears and other wildlife in Washington need your support to stop Substitute House Bill 1838, a nasty legislative proposal that would allow any landowner to place a bait station on their property to attract and shoot black bears.

Submit a comment on HB 1838 and tell your legislators to vote NO!

Bait stations, often barrels full of meat, donuts or other smelly, high-calorie foods that lure bears in, were outlawed for black bear hunting by a strong majority of Washington state voters in 1996. This practice is considered “unsporting” and not “fair chase” by most hunters, and the unintended result of bear baiting is it creates bears habituated to feeding on human garbage, scraps and leftovers.

Bears that learn to feed on human food are dangerous, to humans and themselves. As anyone who spends time in bear country knows, a fed bear quickly becomes a dead bear. 

Specifically authorized county, state and federal wildlife managers are still allowed to use bait stations in Washington while acting in their official capacities for the purpose of protecting livestock, domestic animals, private property, or public safety. SHB 1838 would greatly expand this authorization to include any private landowner who obtains a permit.

While the bill sponsor believes bear baiting will help private landowners kill individual bears who have caused damage to timber plantations and livestock, the truth is baiting attracts all bears. The result will be killing innocent bears, orphaning newborn cubs, and unnecessarily putting people in dangerous proximity to human-food habituated bears.

Damage from hungry black bears feeding on the cambium layer of trees (also known as girdling) can have some negative economic consequences for the owners of timber lands, but the harm is minor and can already be mitigated by trained wildlife managers or closely regulated bear hunts using fair chase methods. Likewise, livestock operators can employ a variety of non-lethal solutions to reduce the threat of predation by black bears on their domestic animals.

Expanding bear baiting in our state to private landowners is unnecessary, unethical and a risky move for both people and wildlife. Please call or write your state representatives today, and urge them to oppose Substitute House Bill 1838. 

Here are some suggested talking points:

  • Allowing bear baiting by private landowners, not just specifically trained and authorized wildlife managers, does not alleviate human-bear conflicts, targets all bears (not just those who might damage property) and exacerbates negative encounters as bears become habituated to human foods and the scents of humans and livestock.
  • By creating bears habituated to human food; SHB 1838 will be dangerous for both humans and bears. Greatly expanding bait stations could also lead to habituation in coyotes, wolves, cougars, bobcats, lynx, wolverines and other wildlife that may be attracted to this easy food source.
  • Washington already has effective and ethical methods in place for landowners to protect their property from black bear damage using trained state, country or federal wildlife experts or through closely regulated public hunts using fair chase methods, not risky bait stations.
  • Because mother bears with cubs are often the first to be attracted to bait stations, this bill will particularly affect newborn black bear cubs. When mothers are killed, cubs are either orphaned or can die from starvation, predation or exposure.
  • Please vote NO on Substitute House Bill 1838!