OLYMPIA - With the state’s most popular deer-hunting season set to start Saturday (Oct. 15), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is reminding hunters that cougars are also fair game anywhere in the state.
Under this year’s rules, deer hunters with a valid cougar license and transport tag can take a cougar during the modern-firearms deer season in all 39 counties - including Okanogan, Chelan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Klickitat.
That’s a change from recent years, when general cougar-hunting seasons in those six counties were delayed to accommodate a pilot program that allowed hunters with special permits to track cougars using dogs.
In August, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission restored full general hunting seasons for those counties after the pilot program, in effect since 2004, expired.
"In those six counties, we’re back to relying on general hunts to manage cougar populations," said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. "We can make that work, but it does present some different management challenges."
Ware said permit hunters using dogs generally took male cougars, while those who encounter cougar during general hunts - without dogs - are less likely to discriminate between the sexes. Under state law, it is illegal to kill spotted cougar kittens or adult cougars tending kittens.
Using dogs to hunt cougars was banned by a citizens’ initiative in 1996, but later allowed by the Legislature under a pilot program in counties reporting increasing conflicts with the big cats.
More than 100,000 hunters are expected to take to the field this month for the modern-firearms deer season that runs through various dates around the state. Cougar hunting is open through the end of the year, although few are taken outside of the major deer and elk hunting seasons, Ware said.