OLYMPIA - Duck and goose hunting opportunities this coming year will be similar to last year under seasons adopted by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission during its Aug. 6-7 meeting in Lynnwood.
The commission, which sets policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also adopted rules to combat the spread of chronic wasting disease into Washington, and rules to permanently close fisheries on a number of species in Hood Canal because of an ongoing problem with low dissolved oxygen levels.
Breeding surveys of local waterfowl populations locally and in Canada indicate numbers of mallard and canvasback ducks remain strong, while northern pintail ducks continue to decline, said Don Kraege, WDFW waterfowl section manager.
The population of Canada geese also appears to be on the rise, except for the cackling goose subspecies. Brant geese numbers have also been in decline for the past decade, and Kraege said brant hunting could be restricted in future seasons if the downward population trend doesn't show signs of reversing.
The commission adopted a general statewide duck season that will run from Oct. 16-20, and Oct. 23-Jan. 30, 2005. Pintail and canvasback hunting will be closed Oct. 23-Dec. 6. The special youth hunting weekend is set for Sept. 18-19.
The daily bag limit is seven ducks, not more than two hen mallards, one pintail, four scaup, one canvasback, two redhead, one harlequin, four scoter and four long-tailed duck. The season limit for harlequin duck is one bird.
The general statewide goose season also begins Oct. 16, with a daily bag limit of four Canada geese. Dates and daily bag limits vary for other species and special goose management areas. Details will be printed in WDFW's Migratory Waterfowl and Upland Game Bird pamphlet, which will be available later this month.
The commission's action to enact an emergency rule to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease restricts the importation of deer and elk harvested from states and Canadian provinces where the fatal affliction has been found.
The rule goes into effect Sept. 1 and lasts 120 days, and allows importation of boned out meat. Deer and elk hides and capes are allowed if heads are not attached, and skulls and antlers are allowed if all soft tissue is removed. Finished taxidermy mounts are allowed.
Washington residents hunting in Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, New Mexico, Wisconsin, Illinois, South Dakota, Nebraska and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan must comply with the new regulations, which could become a permanent rule in 2005.
No deer or elk in Washington have been found with the disease, despite more than three years of random testing of hunter-harvested animals.
Commissioners voted to put a permanent fishing closures in place on Hood Canal for a number of species, including bottomfish, herring, smelt, squid, octopus and sea cucumbers. The permanent fishing closure does not affect fisheries for salmon, crab, shrimp or intertidal clams and oysters. Commissioners directed the department to explore potential fishing opportunities as conditions allow.
Low dissolved oxygen conditions in Hood Canal have not reversed themselves over the past two years and have resulted in several fish kills, said Morris Barker, WDFW marine resources manager.
A number of factors have led to the condition, including poor circulation and flushing of the canal, runoff from stormwater and nitrates from septic systems and agriculture manure. Barker said properly functioning septic systems are not designed to remove nitrates from runoff.
Commissioners also heard a report from WDFW Wildlife Program staff and took public comment on a pilot project to allow the use of hounds to hunt cougar in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties. The commission agreed to continue the public hearing and rule consideration to its Oct. 1-2 workshop in Olympia.
In other business the commission:
- Adopted 2004-05 and 2005-06 furbearer trapping seasons;
- Established oiled bird rehabilitation rules;
- Approved changes to commercial sea urchin and sea cucumber seasons;
- Amended commercial herring rules that modify reporting requirements to provide accurate accounting of herring catch;
- Amended catch accounting rules, which are intended to clarify and increase accuracy of catch and harvest reporting, primarily by commercial fish buyers.
- Approved a proposal to allow public goose hunting on a 30-mile stretch of the Snake River on Lake Sacajawea, and proposals to abolish the 933-acre Moxee Game Reserve and to create the 491-acre Snipes Game Reserve, both in Yakima County.
- Repealed stream obstruction hearings procedure rules. Potential future stream obstruction issues will now be considered on a case-by-case basis under the Administrative Procedures Act.