OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today approved a three-year pilot program for cougar hunting in five northeastern Washington counties.
The outgrowth of state legislation passed earlier this year in response to public safety and livestock depredation concerns, the pilot program allows the use of hounds during a new cougar-hunting season in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
The pilot program was developed cooperatively between the counties and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
Hunting cougar with hounds was banned statewide by public initiative in 1996. However, recent legislation allows hounds to be used during specific seasons in the five counties for the next three years under the program. WDFW and the counties are required to submit a report on the program to the Washington State Legislature at the end of the three-year period.
Under the pilot program, cougar-hunting season with the aid of dogs runs from Dec. 1 to March 31 in most game management units within the five counties. A general cougar season without the use of dogs would run from Oct. 16-Nov. 19.
The five-county area will have an annual harvest quota of 102 cougar and a sub-quota of 40 female cats for the five-county area. Hunting with hounds will close if either quota is met prior to the end of the seasons, and hunters would be able only to pursue cougar without killing them until March 31.
The new program also:
- Creates a mandatory training program for permit holders prior to participation in the season;
- Limits participation to Washington residents who own dogs capable of tracking and treeing a cougar;
- Creates a toll-free cougar quota phone hotline that hound hunters are required to call within 24 hours before going hunting for updated season information. Successful hunters are required to report their harvest to WDFW within 24 hours; and
- Replaces the current public safety cougar removal program in the five counties.
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