OLYMPIA - The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is expected to act on a proposed pilot program for cougar hunting in five northeastern Washington counties during an Oct. 1-2 workshop in Olympia.
The outgrowth of state legislation passed earlier this year in response to public safety and livestock depredation concerns, the three-year pilot program would allow hounds to be used during cougar-hunting seasons in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.
The proposed program is designed to reduce the number of cougar in those counties by 22 percent over its three-year lifespan, said Donny Martorello, carnivore/special species section manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW). The program was developed cooperatively WDFW and county representatives.
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 proposed program. WDFW and the counties would be required to submit a report on the program to the Washington State Legislature at the end of the three-year period.
The commission will take public input on the proposal during its workshop, which will be in Room 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E., in Olympia. The proposal is expected to be presented to the commission in the early afternoon of Oct. 1.
Under the proposed pilot program, the new cougar-hunting season with the aid of dogs would run from Dec. 1 to March 31 in most game management units (GMUs) within the five counties. A general cougar season without the use of dogs would run from Oct. 16-Nov. 19.
Martorello said the proposed program would establish a harvest quota of 102 cougar and a sub-quota of 40 female cats for the five-county area. Hunting with hounds would be closed if either quota is met prior to the end of the seasons, and hunters would be able only to pursue cougar until March 31.
The new program would also:
- Create a mandatory training program for permit holders prior to participation in the season;
- Be limited to Washington residents who own dogs capable of tracking and treeing a cougar;
- Create a toll-free cougar quota phone hotline that hound hunters would be required to call within 24 hours before going hunting for updated season information. Successful hunters would be required to report their harvest to WDFW within 24 hours; and
- Replace the current public safety cougar removal program in the five counties. The proposed pilot program is expected to achieve the same goals.
The commission, a nine-member citizens panel that sets policy for WDFW, is also expected to hear a number of briefings and reports on issues related to fish and wildlife management at the Oct. 1-2 workshop. The complete meeting agenda is available online on the Internet.