OLYMPIA - Cougar hunts in several areas of the state will close at dusk on Dec. 31 now that harvest guidelines for the animals have been reached in those areas, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Eight of the 49 cougar hunt areas will close, including Game Management Units (GMUs) 105, 117, 149, 154, 157, 162, 163, 328, 329, 335, 336, 340, 342, 346, 382, 388, 560, 574, and 578.
Those GMUs are located in portions of Stevens, Pend Oreille, Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Kittitas, Yakima, Klickitat, and Cowlitz counties.
Dave Ware, WDFW Game Division manager, said this is the second year the department has managed cougar hunts under a plan approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2012.
That plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas, said Ware. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where cougar harvest meets or exceeds guidelines, while continuing to allow for hunting opportunities elsewhere.
"The goal is to preserve a variety of cougar age classes in numerous areas throughout the state, particularly older animals which tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations," Ware said.
Last year, hunters harvested 156 cougars statewide, up from 145 in 2011 and 108 in 2010. Ware said the number of cougars harvested this season is expected to be similar to last year.
Ware reminds hunters that during the late-season cougar hunt - Jan. 1 through March 31 - other areas of the state could close early. Before going afield, hunters should check WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/cougar/ or call the cougar hunting hotline (1-866-364-4868) to check which areas of the state remain open.
Any additional closures will be posted on the website and hotline, both of which will be updated weekly.