OLYMPIA -- State wildlife biologists will recommend that mule deer hunting in
some parts of eastern Washington be curtailed or reduced this year because severe
winter conditions have taken a heavy toll on herds.
Biologists say mule deer populations on the eastern slopes of the Cascades
have been hard hit by deep snow and extended periods of freezing temperatures. While
accurate mortality rates are not yet available, some herds are believed to have lost
extremely large numbers of animals.
"Harsh winter conditions have had a big impact on some of our eastern
Washington mule deer herds, far larger than we would normally expect," said
Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Bern Shanks.
"Preliminary numbers show that in Chelan County alone, the bad weather may
have claimed up to half of the mule deer fawns."
As a result of the high mortality rates, biologists will recommend to state Fish and
Wildlife commissioners next month that no buck, or doe, hunting permits be issued for
many areas on the eastern slopes of the Cascades. These are the areas identified in
the department's hunting pamphlet as the 200 and 300 series game management units.
Even though special permit hunts are identified in the 1997 hunting pamphlet,
hunters should not apply for these permits until after permit quotas are established by
the Fish and Wildlife Commission.
Rolf Johnson, who oversees deer and elk programs for the department, said elk
herds that inhabit these same areas have not experienced the same across the board
losses as the mule deer herds. Elk are able to withstand severe winter conditions far
better than mule deer.
However, biologists will recommend that no elk hunting permits be issued in a
few game management units where losses have been substantial. The number of
permits issued will be reduced in several other units.
Johnson said deer herds in the Blue Mountains of southeastern Washington
have thus far been spared severe winter conditions, and whitetail deer in northeast
Washington appear to have coped well with severe winter conditions. Hence, biologists
will be recommending only minor changes in hunting permit numbers in those areas.
Specific information on permit level recommendations may be obtained from the
Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia. The information can also be obtained at the
department's regional offices statewide.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will meet to vote on the recommendations on
April 18 -19 in Longview at the Elks Lodge, 1265 12th Avenue. To obtain permit level
quotas, hunters can contact the department or their closest hunting license dealer on or
after April 23. The information will also be available on the Internet at
Hunters are reminded that applications for special permits are due May 2.