SPOKANE -- An update on Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) strategies to reduce human conflicts with cougars will be presented March 17 in Spokane before an international wildlife conference session on predator management.
WDFW's carnivore manager Donny Martorello will present the report at 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday in the second floor Executive Conference Room of the Spokane Center on Spokane Falls Boulevard downtown.
The Spokane Center and adjacent Doubletree Hotel are the site of the private, non-profit Wildlife Management Institute's (WMI) 69th annual North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, March 16-20.
Following the WDFW report, at 2 p.m. in the Spokane Center's Conference Theater, is the conference session "Managing Mammalian Predators and Their Populations to Avoid Conflicts," featuring presentations by researchers across the continent on cougars, wolves, coyotes, and grizzly bears.
Martorello's report will include a brief history of how strategies for managing Washington's cougar population have changed over the last 50 years. Hunted as a bounty animal during the first half of the 20th century, cougars were reclassified as a game animal in 1960 and usually hunted with the assistance of dogs, the most effective way to track the big cats.
In 1996, when Initiative 655 banned using hounds to hunt cougars, WDFW developed new ways to control the state's cougar population. Expanded hunting seasons, depredation permits, and WDFW's Public Safety Cougar Removal program (created in 2000 by the Legislature to allow use of hounds), have together resulted in removing more cougars than in the years prior to passage of I-655.
Martorello will discuss today's challenge of striking a balance between maintaining cougars in Washington's natural ecosystems and protecting public safety. WDFW has initiated several new research projects in recent years, designed to help guide the department's management efforts. A population study in northeast Washington is using cougar DNA samples, a cougar relocation study in northwest Washington is testing ideas about problem cats returning long distances, and Project CAT with the Cle Elum/Roslyn School District of central Washington is looking for behavioral interactions between cougars and humans.
Martorello will provide details on these projects and other information, including WDFW's new "Living with Cougar" education kits to raise public awareness about cougars.
For more information about WMI's wildlife conference and the predator management session, see http://www.wildlifemanagementinstitute.org.