Black Bear Hunting in Washington

If you're planning to hunt black bear in Washington, it's crucial to be aware of the regulations and guidelines. Here's what you need to know:

Fall Black Bear General Season Dates:

  • The general season for hunting black bears in Washington runs from August 1 to November 15.

Area Restriction:

  • GMUs (Game Management Units) 157, 490, and 522 are closed to fall bear hunting.

License Required:

  • To hunt black bear, you must have a valid big game hunting license, which includes black bear as a species option.

Second Black Bear License/Tag:

  • If you wish to take a second black bear, you must purchase a second black bear transport tag/license. Hunters are allowed to purchase a maximum of two black bear transport tag/licenses.

Bag Limit:

  • The bag limit for black bear is two (2) bears during the license year.

Hunting Method:

  • Hunters have the flexibility to use any legal weapon for hunting black bears. However, it's important to note that bait or hounds are not allowed for bear hunting under RCW 77.15.245.

Caution Regarding Females with Cubs:

  • During the fall, female black bears may be accompanied by cubs weighing between 30-50 lbs. These cubs tend to lag behind when traveling with their mother. Hunters are strongly urged not to shoot a female bear with cubs. It's essential to observe and be patient before taking any action.

Bear Identification Test Requirement in Washington

For hunters planning to hunt in GMUs (Game Management Units) located in grizzly bear recovery areas identified by the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), it's important to be aware of the bear identification test requirement. Here are the key details:

Bear Identification Test:

  • Hunters choosing to hunt in GMUs within grizzly bear recovery areas, as identified by the WDFW, must successfully complete the annual bear identification test.
  • To pass the test, hunters must score 80% or higher.
  • It's mandatory for hunters to carry proof that they have passed the WDFW bear identification test or an equivalent test from another state.

GMUs Requiring Bear Identification Test:

The GMUs in Washington that require hunters to take the bear identification test are:

  • GMU 101
  • GMU 105
  • GMU 108
  • GMU 111
  • GMU 113
  • GMU 117
  • GMU 203
  • GMU 204
  • GMU 209
  • GMU 215
  • GMU 418
  • GMU 426

Bear Shot Placement Guide

When hunting bears, the placement of your shot is critical for a clean and ethical harvest. Proper shot placement reduces the potential for wounding loss or injury to the animal. Here's a guide on where to shoot a bear:

Ideal Shot Placement:

  • The ideal shot placement for harvesting a bear is when the bear is broadside, meaning it is standing perpendicular to your position.
  • Aim for the area just behind the upper arm of the bear.
  • Time your shot to coincide with the bear taking a forward step. This ensures that the shot enters the vital organs effectively.

Why Broadside:

  • Shooting a bear when it's broadside provides a clear target and a better chance of hitting vital organs.
  • The area behind the upper arm is where the heart and lungs are located, making it an effective and humane shot placement.
  • A well-placed shot in this region ensures a quicker and more ethical harvest.

Key Considerations:

  • Always prioritize a clean and humane kill. Ensure that your shot is accurate and well-timed.
  • Avoid taking shots at bears in difficult positions, such as when they are facing directly toward or away from you, as it increases the risk of wounding without a clean kill.
  • Practice marksmanship and shot placement in different scenarios to be prepared for the moment.

Washington Black Bear Hunting General Information

Grizzly Bear and Black Bear Identification

It is crucial to accurately identify grizzly bears and black bears when hunting, as grizzlies are protected under both federal and state laws and may not be shot or killed. Here's how to differentiate between grizzly bears and black bears:

Grizzly Bear Identification:

  • Grizzly bears are typically larger and heavier than black bears.
  • They have a prominent hump on their shoulders, which is a distinctive feature.
  • Grizzly bears often have a concave or "dished" facial profile.
  • Their fur can vary in color, from light blonde to dark brown, but it may also have silver-tipped hairs, giving them a grizzled appearance.
  • Grizzly bear claws are longer and more curved compared to black bears. These claws are well-suited for digging.

Black Bear Identification:

  • Black bears are generally smaller and more slender in appearance compared to grizzlies.
  • They lack the prominent shoulder hump seen in grizzlies.
  • Black bears have a straight facial profile.
  • Their fur can range from black to various shades of brown, but it does not typically have the silver-tipped hairs seen in grizzlies.
  • Black bear claws are shorter and less curved than grizzly bear claws. These claws are better suited for climbing.

Bear Identification Test:

  • In some GMUs (Game Management Units), a mandatory bear identification test is required. You must successfully complete this test to ensure you can accurately distinguish between grizzly and black bears.
  • Passing the bear identification test is essential to avoid accidental harm to grizzly bears, which are protected by law.
  • For more information on the Bear Identification Program and the test, visit

Washington Black Bear Hunting General Information

Mandatory Submission of Bear Teeth

Hunters who have successfully harvested a bear in Washington must adhere to the mandatory submission of bear teeth as per WAC 220-415-090. Here are the key details you need to know:

Submission Requirements:

  • Tooth Submission: Hunters are required to submit the 1st premolar tooth from their harvested bear.
  • Submission Period: Teeth should be submitted within 5 days of harvest or by December 1, 2023, whichever comes first.

Obtaining Submission Materials:

  • You can obtain the necessary materials for tooth submission at any WDFW office. These materials typically include a pre-paid and self-addressed mortality envelope.

Age Verification:

  • The purpose of collecting bear teeth is to accurately determine the age of harvested bears. The age of the bear is an essential data point for wildlife management and conservation efforts.
  • If you wish to verify the age of your harvested bear, you can visit the following website: Tooth Age Lookup.

Processing Time:

  • Teeth submitted by hunters are sent to an external laboratory for age determination.
  • Please note that the turnaround time for receiving age results can be up to 6 months after the close of the fall big game hunting season.
Washington Black Bear Hunting General Information
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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.