- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) - A Thurston County judge has granted a temporary injunction to stop Washington wildlife managers from issuing new permits to kill black bears on private timberland using certain hunting methods.

The Center for Biological Diversity sued the Department of Fish and Wildlife last month, alleging it exploits narrow exceptions to two voter-approved initiatives by allowing hunters to use bait, dogs and body-gripping traps to kill bears on private commercial timberland.

The injunction issued Friday by Superior Court Judge Carol Murphy suspends that specific program until the court can review the case. It does not affect permits already issued.

“This ruling will save numerous bears from a cruel death, and that’s a big relief,” said Collette Adkins, a Center biologist and attorney who represents the environmental group in the lawsuit. “The court is suspending this illegal program that allows a small group of hunters to shoot bears over bait, chase them with hounds and catch them in traps.”

The state had argued that issuing the injunction would lead to significant property damage. Murphy ordered the conservation group to post a $100,000 bond to cover damages if it loses the case.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The lawsuit says the state has authorized about 900 black bears to be killed using bait, dogs and traps since 2010.

Washington voters approved two initiatives in 1996 and 2000, which together banned the use of bait, hounds and body-gripping traps to kill bears.

The initiatives did allow certain exceptions for landowners or agents of government agencies to use dogs to kill bears in the protection of public safety, domestic animals and private property.

Food is scarce when black bears emerge from winter dens, so the animals strip the bark of trees to eat newly formed wood underneath. Such peeling can cause significant damage to some timber stands.

The lawsuit argues that the state program fails to target specific problem black bears that cause tree damage and issues permits without requiring that nonlethal alternatives are used.

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