OLYMPIA — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved 2011-12 waterfowl hunting seasons that are similar to those adopted last year during a meeting Aug. 5-6.
Under the waterfowl hunting package, the statewide duck hunting season will be open from Oct. 15-19 and from Oct. 22-Jan. 29. A special youth hunting weekend also is scheduled for Sept. 24-25.
Special limits for hen mallard, pintail, redhead, scaup, canvasback, goldeneye, harlequin, scoter and long-tailed duck will remain the same.
Goose hunting seasons vary by management areas across the state, but most open Oct. 15 and run through January 2012.
The goose and duck hunting seasons approved by the commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), are based on state and federal waterfowl population estimates and guidelines. According to those estimates, most waterfowl populations throughout North America are at or above historically high levels.
Details on the waterfowl hunting seasons will be available later this week on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/.
In other business, the commission deferred action on proposed amendments to cougar hunting regulations until its Aug. 19 conference call to allow time for further review.
One of those proposals would amend cougar hunting regulations in six counties in eastern Washington, where a pilot project authorizing cougar hunting with the aid of dogs was not extended by the Legislature this year. WDFW is recommending an increase in cougar hunting opportunities without the aid of dogs in Klickitat, Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties to continue to meet management objectives in those areas.
Another proposal would modify the criteria for determining when cougars are removed to address public concerns for pet and livestock depredation and personal safety. The proposal would allow for cougar removals when complaints confirmed by WDFW staff exceed the five-year average.
WDFW game managers are recommending the amendments to cougar hunting regulations as an interim measure until the 2012-14 hunting season package is developed. Public discussion on the 2012-14 hunting seasons is scheduled to begin later this month.
In other business, the commission amended the list of game reserves and was briefed on the new Discover Pass as well as the status of key groundfish species in Puget Sound.
Prior to the Aug. 5-6 meeting, the commission discussed WDFW’s recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan during a special meeting. The plan, developed under the state Environmental Policy Act, is intended to guide state wolf management while wolves naturally disperse and re-establish a sustainable breeding population in the state.
The plan contains recovery objectives that would allow the state to eventually remove wolves from protection lists, along with management strategies to address wolf/livestock and wolf/ungulate conflicts.
The recommended plan was developed after a scientific peer review and extensive public review of the 2009 draft plan. The public comment process, which concluded last year, included 19 public meetings and drew nearly 65,000 responses. In addition, a 17-member citizen Wolf Working Group, which advised WDFW on the plan, met with WDFW staff 10 times from 2007-2011.
The final EIS/Recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan is available on WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/. The website also contains information on the wolf plan development process, including past public input and the scientific peer review.
The commission has scheduled three more special meetings to discuss the recommended Wolf Conservation and Management Plan and take public comment. Those meetings are scheduled for Aug. 29 in Ellensburg, and Oct. 6 and Nov. 3 in Olympia.