By Bob Brown
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists Scott Fitkin and Jeff Heinlen got real surprised last month while manning the Winthrop deer check station.
During both weekends of the modern firearm deer season, Fitkin and Heinlen checked 175 hunters with 45 deer, of which 40 were bucks. Twenty-eight of those were estimated to be 4.5 years old.
In addition to the deer that were checked, one cougar and two black bears were also checked. One of those bears was a Methuselah bruin probably 25 years old which was most likely radio-collard by Fitkin over 20 years ago as part of a research project at that time.
According to Wikipedia, the average life span of a black bear in the wild is approximately 18 years, but some have survived for more than 23 years. The record age of a wild specimen is 39 years, while in captivity it was 49 years.
Black bear deaths are overwhelmingly attributable to human activities such as hunting, illegal poaching, trapping and automobile collisions.
The largest wild American black bear ever recorded was a male from New Brunswick. Shot in November 1972, it weighed 902 pounds after being dressed, meaning it weighed an estimated 1,100 pounds.
It is unknown what was the largest black bear killed in Washington, but a 700-pounder died after being hit by a vehicle near Tirton in 2015. Where this bear ranks among the biggest ever killed in Washington isn't known because the state doesn't keep records of bear weights killed, and hunting books rank bears by the size of their skulls, not their weight.

Wolf shot in self-defense
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) reported last month that a female wolf weighing 85 pounds was killed by a Union County hunter in self-defense. The agency reported this incident marks the first time in Oregon that a wolf was reported as shot in self-defense.
The hunter, a 38-year-old male from Clackamas, told an ODFW officer that he had been hunting elk alone when he noticed three animals moving around him and assumed they were coyotes. At one point one of them began to run directly at him, while another made its way around him. Focusing on the one running at him, he screamed at it and, fearing for his life, shot it one time. The other two ran out of sight.
Believing he had shot a coyote, the man returned to camp and told his fellow hunters what had happened. Returning to the location, they came to the conclusion the animal was a wolf. The hunter then notified ODFW.
The Union County district attorney’s office was consulted regarding the incident and determined the case wouldn't be prosecuted as it was believed to be an incident of self-defense. It is unlawful to kill a wolf in Oregon, except in defense of human life (and in certain instances involving wolf depredation of livestock).
Roblyn Brown, an ODFW official, said “Dangerous encounters between wolves and people are rare, as are such encounters between people, cougars, bears and coyotes. If you see a wolf or any other animal and are concerned about your safety, begin talking or yelling to alert it to your presence. If carrying a firearm, you can fire a warning shot into the ground.”
Sure thing, partner.

Bob Brown lives in Roy and is a freelance outdoors writer. He can be contacted at