The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will hold a special meeting September 16 in Wenatchee to adopt rules governing the use of dogs to remove cougars when there are ongoing public safety problems.
The meeting starts at 1 p.m. in the Columbia River Room of the Red Lion Hotel, 1225 N. Wenatchee Ave. Public input will be taken at the meeting following presentation of the proposed rules.
The proposed rules were developed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff in response to legislation passed earlier this year. The bill, ESSB 5001, directed the commission to authorize the use of dogs for the controlled removal of cougars within areas of specific game management units (GMUs) to meet public safety needs.
Although the state already has a general cougar season August 1 through March 15 for hunting without the use of dogs, the new legislation calls for dog use in specific cougar problem areas. The legislation is strictly intended as a cougar management tool to be used when other alternatives are inadequate. It is not intended as a means to increase recreational opportunity. Statewide hunting of cougars with dogs was eliminated by a voter initiative in 1996.
In drafting the rules, WDFW staff examined the frequency and distribution of recent cougar complaints, including human encounters and pet and livestock kills or injuries. They also examined the habitat surrounding the area where the complaint occurred to determine its ability to support cougars. Using this data, WDFW staff determined how many cougars should be removed from a particular area.
Under the staff proposal, the commission will be asked to allow the WDFW director to issue 74 cougar removal permits in the 17 game management units (GMUs) that had the highest complaint levels in 1999. The commission would have to approve any additional permits in subsequent years. The GMUS and proposed permit levels that will be discussed September 16 are as follows. In four of the GMUs - Blue Creek, Coyle, Kitsap and Puyallup - the cougars would be removed by WDFW enforcement officers because the areas are heavily populated or pose other challenging conditions.