OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Friday will decide whether to approve a plan that would allow limited permits for cougar removal with the use of dogs to address public safety needs.
The cougar rule item is on the workshop agenda for 1 p.m. Oct. 6, in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. N.E., Olympia. The workshop is open to the public; however, no public testimony will be taken.
The Commission tabled the decision at a meeting in Wenatchee on Sept. 16, because there was insufficient time to debate the details of the plan proposed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff. At the meeting, the Commission heard three hours of testimony from nearly 70 persons on both sides of the issue.
The Commission, a nine-member citizen's panel which sets WDFW policy, was directed by the state legislature (through ESSB5001) to adopt rules for when and where dogs may be used to remove cougars that pose public safety problems.
The use of dogs for recreational cougar hunting in Washington was banned by voter initiative in 1996.
Despite an Aug. 1 to March 15 season for hunting cougars without dogs, complaints about cougar problems with people, pets and livestock have continued to proliferate.
In drafting the rules WDFW staff examined the frequency and distribution of recent cougar complaints, including human safety incidents and pet and livestock kills or injuries. Staff have recommended that cougar removal permits be issued in game management units (GMUs) which had at least four such incidents and at least seven cougar sightings and nuisance encounters in a year.
The number of cougars to be removed is then based on the size of the complaint area and the habitat quality of that area.
The proposed plan would allow 74 cougar removal permits in the 17 GMUs that had the highest complaint levels in 1999 – primarily urban areas around Puget Sound and Spokane.
If the proposed rules are adopted, cougar removals would begin in late December.