By Cathy Logg
SKYKOMISH – Four bear hunters face stiff penalties after they were arrested on investigation of bear baiting, on the opening day of bear hunting season.
The biggest shock wasn’t the jail time or fines they could face, but the automatic revocation of their hunting licenses in Washington and eight other states for five years, state Department of Fish and Wildlife Sgt. Randy Lambert said Friday. They also forfeited their guns and could have their vehicles confiscated, he said.
“This one 29-year-old guy turned pale and was just in shock,” he said. “They’re going to be severely impacted. They’re losing their rifles and pistols automatically. We can and may take their vehicles. We’re assessing that still.”
In addition, the four face a gross misdemeanor charge that could bring up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.
Wildlife agents discovered numerous bear bait sites in the Skykomish area, so they had been monitoring and staking out those sites, Lambert said.
“Most of the hunters that hunt bear are good hunters,” he said. “They love hunting. They hunt bear, deer, elk, cougar, rabbits, everything. This is real important to them.”
In years past, hunters were allowed to use bait to lure bears. They placed food to draw the bears and get them accustomed to coming to the site before the season started. Then, once the season opened, the hunter would wait in a tree stand until a bear showed up for the food, then shoot it, Lambert said. Hunters also had been allowed to use hounds to hunt cougars. In 1996, voters passed a referendum ending the two practices.
“It is the most effective way to get a bear, especially in Western Washington with all the underbrush,” he said. “But it’s against the law.”
On Wednesday, all five wildlife agents from Snohomish County, along with a Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest enforcement officer and two civilian observers (former hunters) staked out the bait areas and waited. They arrested four men at separate sites, two of them a father and a son, on charges of hunting black bear over bait, he said. All four were from the south King County area.
The hunters didn’t get any bears – luckily for them, he said.
“That would have been a lot more serious for them. That’s an automatic $2,000 fine. They did admit taking bears over the 2000 season,” Lambert said.
The men were cooperative and forthright, he said.
“But when we told them of the five-year suspension, it’s like we punched them in the stomach,” he said.
Lambert said wildlife agents will continue to monitor bait traps.
You can call Herald Writer Cathy Logg at 425-339-3437
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