OLYMPIA – Animals will begin showing up on Washington license plates next year and – if a recent drawing for the lowest numbers is any indication – they’re going to be popular.
More than 7,000 people applied for the right to buy the first bald eagle, orca, elk, mule deer and black bear license-plate backgrounds, which will help fund several wildlife programs administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Those who weren’t selected in the drawing for one of the plates bearing numbers 00001 through 00025 will be able to purchase the new backgrounds starting Jan. 3. The initial cost is $40 more than regular plates, and $30 extra when the vehicle registration renewal comes due.
Margaret Greydanus of Gig Harbor, whose name was drawn for orca plate 00001, said she would have been happy with any of the license backgrounds.
“They’re so distinctive and such a representation of Washington, Greydanus said. We’re lucky to live in a state that has so much beauty and wildlife.”
Greydanus said she, husband Wes and their two children are outdoorsy types. Wes likes to hunt, and the family loves boating. They’ve enjoyed watching killer whales during trips to the San Juan Islands.
Proceeds from the orca plates will help restore endangered and threatened species. Funds raised from bald eagle plates will go toward wildlife-viewing projects, while those generated by the deer, elk and bear plates will support management of the state’s game-animal populations.
Unlike the Greydanuses, who applied for all five wildlife backgrounds, Tim Bazzar of Bonney Lake was only interested in one: the elk. Against heavy odds, Bazzar’s name was the first one drawn.
“Whether I get an elk or not, I just enjoy being out there,” said Bazzar, who has been hunting for 32 years.
There will be two 00001s in Castle Rock. The southwest Washington town of 2,130 is home to Greg Kelly, the inaugural black bear plate recipient, and Sam Davis, whose name was drawn for the first bald eagle background.
“I thought it was a good cause, and I liked the way the licenses looked,” Kelly said of entering the drawing. “I thought it’d be neat to get one of the first numbers.”
Ken Fortune of Bothell won the drawing for the first mule deer background although a black bear might have been more appropriate. Fortune once bagged a trophy-sized bear while hunting near Lake Roosevelt and has been an avid hunter and fisherman all his life.
He still returns to his native Tri-Cities area to hunt birds, and said he appreciates the way duck habitat is managed on nearby WDFW wildlife areas.
“I always make sure I do what I can to support it,” Fortune said. “That’s why I put in for that license plate. I want to tell people I appreciate wildlife.”