BELLINGHAM -- The state Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved a new,
three-year hunting seasons and regulations package that calls for a major change in the
type of elk that can be hunted in areas of western Washington.
The commission, meeting in downtown Bellingham on Friday and Saturday, also
voted to move the elk season opening day to a Saturday, create a nine-day, three-point
mule deer season in eastern Washington and reduce from three days to two the
amount of time hunters will have to wait to elk hunt if they choose to apply for a permit.
Cougar and black bear hunting seasons were also expanded in the wake of the
recent passage of Initiative 655.
The new seasons and regulations package, which will be effective from 1997
through 1999, was approved by the commission after extensive public review. Hearings
were held in both eastern and western Washington to give citizens an opportunity to
The Department of Fish and Wildlife's Hunting Seasons and Rules pamphlet for
the 1997-98 game species' seasons will contain complete information on the new
regulations package. The pamphlet is expected to be available by mid-February at
Department of Fish and Wildlife offices and businesses where hunting licenses are
Wildlife managers had proposed that commissioners adopt a statewide, spike-bull only
elk season. Such seasons are designed to increase the ratio of adult bulls to
cows in elk herds, and are already in effect in the Blue Mountains, Yakima and
Colockum elk areas of eastern Washington. Spike bulls are generally yearlings, and are
less effective breeders than older males.
However, commissioners opted for less restrictive seasons in northeastern
Washington and western Washington by limiting spike-only hunting to those areas that
are presently designated in the hunting pamphlet as general bull hunting areas.
The western Washington areas previously designated for three-point hunts and
limited entry elk hunts were expanded, and areas that had been open for the take of
any bull were converted to spike bull hunting with branched bull by permit.
The commission's decision to expand black bear and cougar seasons was made
in an effort to maintain the animals' harvest levels at a time when their populations are
expanding and creating increasing nuisance problems. Initiative 655 bans the use of
hounds to hunt cougars and black bears, and prohibits the use of bait to hunt black
bears. These hunting techniques have proven to be the most effective way to hunt the
Presently, black bears are hunted in eastern Washington for two months a year.
The new regulation package allows black bears to be hunted for three months and a
In western Washington, black bears are now hunted for three months a year.
The new regulation allows hunting to occur for up to four months, depending on the
Additionally, in portions of western Washington, hunters will be allowed to kill two
black bears a year instead of one in areas where the animal is causing damage to
timber. Hunters who kill two bears would have to possess a general bear tag and a
damage bear tag.
The new regulation package creates a statewide general cougar hunting season
from August 1 through March 15, and eliminates the cougar permit requirement.
Under the new regulation package, hunters from all user groups will be able to
apply for all permits for mountain goats. Permits just`for archery or muzzleloader
hunters will no longer be issued.
The proposal's intent is to give all hunters, regardless of the weapon they use,
an equal opportunity to be drawn for a permit.
Because of an outbreak of a deadly bacteria that has caused the death this year
of at least 100 bighorn sheep in southeast Washington, the commission decided not to
issue any bighorn permits next year in the Mountainview and Wenaha Wilderness
In other actions, the commission:
- Adopted formal policy guidelines for the department's Private Lands
Wildlife Management Area Program. The program is designed to
encourage private landowners to protect and maintain fish and wildlife
habitat while allowing the public access for hunting, fishing and other
- Took public testimony on proposed changes to the 1997-98 sportfishing
rules. The commission is scheduled to adopt the rules in late January.
- Took public testimony on a department proposal to limit the trawl fishery in
Puget Sound to protect ling cod stocks. The commission will also vote on
this issue next month.