OLYMPIA– Draft rules for using hounds to decrease the number of cougars in specific areas of the state with the aim of increasing public safety are now available for public comment.
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to consider the rules for adoption in a special meeting September 16.
Public comment on the rules will be taken during the meeting, which will be held at the Wenatchee Red Lion, 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave. The commission also is scheduled to receive a briefing on the proposed rules during its August 10 meeting in Tukwila, although no public comment will be taken at that time.
The draft rules were developed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff in response to legislation passed earlier this year. The bill, ESSB 5001, directed the commission to authorize the use of dogs for controlled hunts of cougars within areas of specific game management units (GMUs) for the purpose of meeting a demonstrated public safety need.
Although the state already has a general cougar season August 1 through March 15 for hunting without the use of dogs, the new legislation calls for hound use in specific cougar problem areas. Statewide hunting of cougars with hounds was eliminated by a voter initiative in 1996, but since the initiative passed the number of complaints about cougars has risen markedly. The new legislation authorizes selective use of hounds as a cougar management tool.
In drafting the new rules, the Department examined the frequency and distribution of recent cougar complaints including human attacks and encounters and pet and livestock depredation or injury.
The draft rules call for issuance of permits for removal of cougars from portions of 17 GMUs. The designated cougar removal areas are those with a high number of confirmed cougar complaints in 1999. The number of cougars designated for removal from each location would depend on the size and habitat quality of the area. In cougar problem areas where using hounds would not be feasible, such as residential areas, the boundaries of the designated cougar removal area would be extended to adjacent lands.
After commission action, the new rules are expected to go into effect this December.
Copies of the proposed rules and criteria are available at WDFW headquarters in Olympia or at WDFW regional offices in Spokane, Ephrata, Yakima, Mill Creek, Vancouver and Montesano. The proposals also may be viewed on the WDFW website.
Written comments on the proposed criteria and rules may be submitted by September 8 by mail to Sean Carrell, Enforcement Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia WA 98501-1091, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org