Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) Sergeant Jim Brown was recently honored for his work to control problem cougars in Okanogan County by the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.
The Council, which is the state's largest private, non-profit sportsmen's organization, presented the Ann Faast Memorial Award to Sergeant Brown at its 52nd annual awards banquet January 18 in Spokane. The award, named in memory of the Council's first female president who worked closely with the state on wildlife policy and projects, is presented annually to a WDFW employee whose work effort goes above and beyond the call of duty.
WDFW's northcentral regional director Dennis Beich, who presented the award, said that Sergeant Brown deserved the recognition for his commitment to addressing cougar problems in Okanogan County.
"When Sergeant Brown first took the position for detachment 14 in Okanogan County in 2001," Beich said, "the county had been in an uproar about cougar-caused livestock and pet deaths and apparent state ineffectiveness to control the problem cats. The issue became so hot that county commissioners passed a resolution to take matters into their own hands."
But the county never had to act on the resolution, Beich noted. "Between rule changes on public safety cougar control made in Olympia and Sergeant Brown's extra time and care to handle each case to the satisfaction of every complainant," he said, "cougar complaints dropped from 141 in 2001 to 90 in 2002."
Sergeant Brown of Okanogan has served the state as an enforcement officer since 1992. He said recent adjustments to the cougar removal permit process have helped him and other officers deal more effectively with specific, repetitive cougar problems, allowing them to get on situations as soon as possible. For example, he noted, Okanogan County rancher Joel Kretz had 11 livestock losses to cougars over the last five years, but with the removal of four chronically offensive cats in 2001, he had no losses last year.
Pleased with recognition from the Council and vowing to reduce problem cougar complaints more this year, Sergeant Brown said "My family and the Department of Fish and Wildife are part of the community and we care about these problems, too." He also noted that Okanogan County participants in last month's WDFW northcentral region roundtable discussion were happy with Department efforts. "County Commissioner Craig Vejraska was satisfied we are on the right track and said that if the Department had a success story, this was it," he recalled.