OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission made minor changes to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife's (WDFW) annual public safety cougar removal season and set duck and goose hunting seasons at its Aug. 2-3 meeting in Aberdeen.
The commission, which establishes policy for the department, unanimously approved changing the deadline for cougar public safety removal permit applications from Nov. 1 to Oct. 1, changing the permit season start date from Dec. 16 to Dec. 1, and requiring that all participants view an educational video.
"Changing the application deadline provides more timely notification to successful permit applicants, and gives them added time to gain access to property within the permit area," said WDFW Enforcement Lieutenant Steve Dauma. "Changing the actual start date of the permit season can add additional hunt time in some areas where early-season snowfall occurs."
WDFW created the public safety cougar removal program at the request of the Washington State Legislature after the use of dogs to hunt cougar was banned by ballot initiative in 1996. A limited number of permits are issued each year to qualified hunters for removing cougars in areas where they present a safety concern for people, pets and livestock.
Dauma said applications for cougar public safety removal permits will be available by mid-August in WDFW regional offices and on-line via the WDFW website, on the Internet.
Duck and goose hunting seasons set by the commission are largely similar to the 2001 seasons and reflect stable mallard duck and Canada geese populations. The seasons also provide protection for weaker canvasback and pintail duck populations. Complete waterfowl hunting seasons and rules will be available in early September in pamphlet form and on the WDFW website.
WDFW Game Division Manager Dave Ware said that although duck populations were significantly affected by drought in much of the Midwest and Canadian prairie provinces, mallard populations along the Pacific Flyway have increased slightly.
Ware said hunters will need to use extra care this year when identifying redhead ducks from the similar-looking canvasbacks, which are off-limits this year because of weak numbers. The same situation exists with northern pintail duck numbers, in which the female pintails are difficult to discern from the more common female mallards.
Goose seasons set by the commission are similar to last year's package, including protection for dusky geese populations in the Grays Harbor and lower Columbia River areas. Hunters must have written authorization from WDFW before hunting duskys.
In other business, the commission:
- Adopted a smaller minimum size for Manila clams in Quilcene Bay in order to reduce high population densities. The minimum size is 1.25 inches. Commissioners voted to close clamming at Snohomish County's Kayak Point County Park beaches because of a major winter clam kill this past winter. Clamming in the park has been closed by emergency regulation.
- Approved a draft report on livestock grazing on WDFW land. The report will now go through the public review process.
- Approved minor changes to Southeast Washington elk-hunting boundary descriptions.
- Heard an update on WDFW's review of its property holdings. WDFW has been reviewing its property ownership, comprising nearly 495,000 acres throughout the state, and will submit its report to lawmakers by September.
- Heard an update about state and federal efforts to protect and rebuild rockfish stocks off the Pacific coast.
- Agreed to continue adoption of aquatic nuisance species rules to the Aug. 22 meeting.
A decision on changes to the retail endorsement license rules which would have allowed commercial fishers to sell their catch directly to the public without a wholesale fish dealer's license was tabled to the Oct. 17 conference call.