CLE ELUM – After a second round of public testimony at a meeting here Friday (Aug. 17), the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted several modifications to the permit system for removing cougars using dogs to protect public safety.
Commission Chair Russ Cahill said the modifications are designed to address public concerns and make the state's new system for removing cougars that pose a threat to public safety more efficient.
"The new system initiated last year led to the removal of only one-third of the targeted number of cougars in areas where they cause problems," Cahill said. "These modifications should get us closer to the mark."
Under the new rules developed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and approved by the Commission on Friday:
- The next period for removing cougars using dogs will extend from Dec. 16 through March 15, unless the number of cougars targeted for removal is reached by an earlier date.
- Permits will be issued for 109 cougars in 21 Game Management Units (GMUs) during the next cougar removal period. Last year, 74 permits were issued in 17 GMUs.
- For a permit to be issued, there must be 11 confirmed complaints involving human/cougar interaction, at least four of which must involve a threat to the safety of humans, pets or livestock.
- Prospective participants must own their own dogs to be eligible for a permit.
- If a participant is successful in removing a cougar from a designated area by Jan. 15, 2002, that person may be eligible for a second permit.
- A permit holder must contact WDFW 24 hours before pursuing a cougar using dogs, and must contact the department within 24 hours after removing a cougar.
In December, the Commission will consider another proposal that would provide for a "pursuit-only" season that would allow for the training of dogs but no additional cougar removals.
WDFW will begin accepting applications for removing cougars using dogs in September, said Donny Martorello, WDFW carnivore/special species manager. All applications for the next cougar-removal period must be received by 5 p.m., Nov. 1, 2001. Those interested in obtaining a permit should contact a WDFW office, or visit the agency's website (www.wdfw.wa.gov) in September for more information.
The use of dogs to hunt cougars in Washington was banned by ballot initiative in 1996. Last year, the state Legislature directed WDFW to develop a controlled system for removing cougars using dogs in areas where they are a safety concern for people, pets and livestock.
The Commission considered several modifications to the permit system for removing cougars at an Aug. 3-4 meeting in Twisp. In response to public concern voiced at that meeting, the Commission delayed decisions until Friday to develop even more efficient measures.