WENATCHEE - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today delayed a vote on a plan to allow limited permits for cougar removal with the use of dogs to address public safety needs.
The Commission voted to meet Oct. 6 in Olympia to decide the issue, with a time and exact location to be announced next week.
After hearing three hours of testimony from nearly 70 persons on both sides of the issue at a public meeting, the Commissioners voiced concern there was insufficient time to debate the details of the plan proposed by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) staff.
The Commission, a nine-member citizen's panel which sets WDFW policy, was directed by the state legislature (through ESSB5001) to adopt rules about when and where dogs may be used to remove cougars that pose public safety problems.
The use of dogs to hunt cougars 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 because of a growing cougar population and human encroachment on habitat.
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. If a Game Management Unit (GMU) had at least four such incidents and at least seven cougar sightings and nuisance encounters in a year, it was recommended for a cougar removal permit.
Staff also examined the habitat surrounding a particular 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. 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.