What Happens When Anti-Hunters Join a State Game Commission and Take Charge of Hunting Seasons

In the second of a four-part podcast series, a former Washington wildlife commissioner describes what happened when commissioners ignored science to pursue an anti-hunting agenda
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black bear in washington state

Black bear management in Washington reached a boiling point in 2021 when wildlife commissioners canceled the spring hunt following outcry from the animal welfare community. James / Adobe Stock

Dr. Kim Thorburn is an unlikely hunting advocate.

An MD who practiced internal medicine and worked as a prison physician before turning to public-health administration, Thorburn describes herself as a “hippie doctor” and avid bird-watcher. The Spokane resident was as surprised as anyone when Washington’s governor tapped her to serve on the state’s Fish and Wildlife Commission.

“I think I was the token non-game representative, considered [for the commission] because of my long work monitoring and advocating for prairie grouse and grassland bird habitat,” says Thorburn. “I’m not a hunter.”

But her professional background in medicine and public health prepared her well for the commission, which considers the public policy, social implications, and the science of wildlife management decisions. She threw herself in the volunteer work on the commission, developing an appreciation for the balance between recreational opportunity and species conservation, and participating in the give and take of managing limited public resources.

Thorburn is now a former wildlife commissioner. She was not reappointed by Washington Gov. Jay Inslee in the latest round of selections. Her tenure overlapped a high-profile decision in November 2021 to end a long-standing limited spring bear hunt, and opposition to a conservation policy that de-emphasizes the role of hunters and emphasizes the importance of ecosystem health. Thorburn has been publicly critical of commissioners she says are ignoring science as they pursue an anti-hunting agenda.

In the second episode of a four-part podcast series on Hunt Talk Radio, OL’s hunting editor Andrew McKean and host Randy Newberg talk with Thorburn about her experiences as a member of a polarized commission, and about the future of wildlife management in Washington and beyond.