OLYMPIA– The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is accepting written public comments on a proposal that would allow dog pursuit of cougars in an effort to condition the cats to avoid inhabited areas.
The draft rule will be considered by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in a Dec. 7-8 meeting at the Best Inn and Suites, 221 NE Chkalov St., in Vancouver. Public comment also will be taken at that meeting.
The proposed rule was developed by WDFW in response to a request from some commission members for additional action to address public safety concerns involving cougars.
If the draft rule is approved, pursuit-only chases would be allowed in the same time period and areas selected for the public safety cougar removal process. That process, approved by the commission last August at the direction of the Legislature, provides for controlled cougar hunts using dogs through next March 15 in selected areas where public safety needs have arisen because of one or more cougar encounters. The pursuit permits would be issued only after the targeted number of cougars designated in the public safety cougar removal process had been removed.
The proposed pursuits are intended to add a non-lethal method of modifying cougar behavior and reduce the animals' risk to humans. In addition, they would provide a means of training dogs to track cougars. The dog training permits would be divided between individuals holding public safety cougar removal permits and other applicants for those permits.
The draft pursuit rule is available at the WDFW Olympia headquarters or regional offices or may be viewed on the Internet. Written comments on the proposal, should be mailed so they are received by Dec. 6, and should be addressed to Evan Jacoby, WDFW, 600 Capitol Way N., Olympia, WA 98501-1091.
DRAFT COUGAR PURSUIT PROPOSAL TO BE CONSIDERED BY FISH AND WILDLIFE COMMISSION:
WAC 232-12-245 Cougar dog-training. The department will issue cougar dog-training permits to enable the training of dogs capable of detecting, tracking, and treeing a cougar and to attempt to modify cougar behavior.
(1) Cougar dog-training is pursuit-only. Persons who have been issued a public safety cougar removal permit will be issued a cougar dog-training permit for the area for which the removal permit was issued and an additional cougar dog-training permit will be issued for the area for which the removal permit was issued. The procedure for issuance of cougar dog-training permits is as described in WAC 232-12-243 (4).
(2) If the cougar removal quota has been reached in a game management unit prior to March 15th, cougar dog-training permit holders will be notified by the department, and, after giving at least twenty-four hours notice to the enforcement program in Olympia, cougar dog-training permit holders may pursue cougars with dogs in the permit area. The training period ends statewide at 11.59 p.m., March 15th.
(3) No more than four individuals, including the permit holder, may participate under a cougar dog-training permit. The cougar dog-training permit holder must notify the Olympia enforcement office of the names of all persons who will participate in cougar dog-training upon the completion of the education course required under WAC 232-12-243 (4), and must enter the names of such persons in ink on the cougar dog-training permit. No person who participates in cougar dog-training may kill or possess a dead cougar within seven days after participating in the training.
(4) All cougar dog-training permit holders who participate in cougar dog-training must fill out and return a cougar pursuit report to the Olympia enforcement office by April 1.
(5) It is unlawful to train dogs to pursue cougar without a cougar dog-training permit, to participate in cougar dog-training without being named on the cougar dog training permit, to participate in cougar dog-training without possessing a big game hunting license containing cougar as an option, or to kill cougar taken during cougar dog-training or within seven days after participating in cougar dog-training. Violation of this section is a violation of RCW 77.15.410, Unlawful hunting of big game.