Archived documents do not reflect current WDFW regulations or policy and may contain factual inaccuracies.
Wildlife Research and Management - Game Management and Conservation
Date Published: January 01, 2003
Number of Pages: 145
This Game Management Plan (GMP) will guide the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s management of hunted wildlife for the next six years. The focus is on the scientific management of game populations, harvest management, and other significant factors affecting game populations.
As mandated by the Washington State Legislature (RCW 77.04.012, “… the department shall preserve, protect, perpetuate, and manage the wildlife…”; “the department shall conserve the wildlife… in a manner that does not impair the resource…”; and “The commission shall attempt to maximize the public recreational… hunting opportunities of all citizens, including juvenile, disabled, and senior citizens.” It is this mandate that sets the overall policy and direction for managing hunted wildlife. Hunters and hunting will continue to play a significant role in the conservation and management of Washington’s wildlife.
Washington’s citizens played a strong role in developing this plan. A variety of public involvement opportunities were used to solicit ideas. In all, several thousand citizens provided comments, edits, and priority issues. The Game Management Advisory Council, a group of citizens representing conservation and hunting organizations, landowners, and biologists, was continually involved in identifying and refining issues. The Wildlife Diversity Advisory Council, representing environmental organizations and mostly non-consumptive viewpoints, also provided important counsel on key predator management issues. In addition, an extensive public opinion survey was conducted for the Department by the private consulting firm, Responsive Management.
A panel of scientists, from several universities and specialists from across the west reviewed key issues associated with Washington’s elk management and made recommendations to WDFW for management direction and strategies to incorporate into the plan. Consultations with cougar scientists were also conducted as peer review of the cougar management section.
The priority issues identified by the public include:
- Scientific/professional management of hunted species
- Public support for hunting as a management tool
- Hunter ethics and fair chase
- Private lands programs and hunter access
- Tribal hunting
- Predator management
- Hunting season regulations
- Game damage and nuisance
- Species-specific management issues
An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was completed on November 27, 2002, after public review of draft and supplemental EIS documents. The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission formally adopted the Game Management Plan on December 7, 2002. This comprehensive process facilitated public discussion and understanding, while cooperatively developing the priority strategies. Success and accountability will be measured through the reporting of accomplishments in the annual Game Status and Trend Report.
The overall goals are to protect, sustain, and manage hunted wildlife, provide stable, regulated recreational hunting opportunity to all citizens, protect and enhance wildlife habitat, and minimize adverse impacts to residents, other wildlife, and the environment.
With all of these issues, it is understood that the implementation of strategies are conditioned first on meeting game population objectives. Science is the core of wildlife management, supporting WDFW’s Legislative mandate to preserve, protect, and perpetuate wildlife populations while maximizing recreation.
General Management Issues
With science and the goal of sustaining game populations as the foundation, many of the preferred strategies in chapter two emphasize education, public involvement in decisions and participation in data collection, and subsequent monitoring of public satisfaction. Hunter ethics/fair chase issues such as the development of equipment restrictions are largely based on public opinion because any biological or environmental impacts from equipment technology can be mitigated in other ways. Techniques for mitigating equipment impacts on hunted species include adjustment of season length and timing, bag limits, and other harvest adjustments.
Tribal hunting strategies hinge on the development of cooperative harvest management plans and increased coordination in the management of our respective hunters. Strategies to review and improve private land programs and address game damage rely on working groups of stakeholders to develop recommendations for future actions.
Attention is given to those values identified in recent public opinion surveys for predator management and hunting season preferences. The intent is to provide intensive public education on key issues that maintain public support for hunting; address human/wildlife conflicts with focused hunting strategies; and provide a variety of hunting opportunities that satisfy different preferences while meeting game population objectives.
Road management issues are complicated with a precarious balance between protection of wildlife and hunter access. The development of road management plans is the key strategy to develop and maintain an appropriate balance.
As mentioned previously, the foundation for all objectives and strategies identified in this plan is science and the professional judgment of biologists. At times, the science may not be as strong as managers would like. In those instances, management actions will be more conservative to minimize the potential for significant negative impacts to hunted wildlife species. Chapter three focuses on the science and management of hunted species and lays out how those populations will be monitored to ensure perpetuation of these species over the long term.
The principal strategies are designed to maintain or increase the number of mature (five year old/six points or greater) bulls that survive after hunting seasons; to determine habitat limitations and estimate carrying capacity for several herds, and where populations are meeting or exceeding goals, to increase harvest of antlerless animals. These measures will be phased in and monitored over six years with expected improvements to recruitment and herd dynamics. Improvements are planned to better monitor population status and determine herd composition. Distinct population management units will be reviewed and updated to form the geographic boundaries for achieving herd objectives.
From the recreational standpoint, current general season strategies will be maintained to the extent possible with a variety of hunting opportunities available and balanced for archers, muzzleloaders, and modern firearm hunters within each of WDFW’s seventeen districts. Spike only management will continue to be emphasized in most of eastern Washington, using branch bull permit levels to achieve sex ratio objectives and three point or better regulations will be retained in western Washington, mainly relying on road management to achieve sex ratio objectives.
Recommended changes to deer management are subtle, since many factors that determine population levels are beyond the control of state wildlife managers-such as weather, wild fires, disease, and timber harvest. Preferred strategies will emphasize improvements in population monitoring, mule deer research, and refinement of population model inputs such as mortality and recruitment rates. Actions will be increased for surveillance of chronic wasting disease and determination of population impacts from hair slip syndrome.
Hunting season changes will be similar to elk regarding maintenance of current general season strategies while ensuring that a variety of hunting opportunities are available and balanced within each of WDFW’s seventeen districts. These guidelines will allow continued debate regarding hunter preferences for season regulations while maintaining the minimum population objective of 15 bucks per 100 does after the hunting season.
Special Species Management
Management strategies for bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose will largely continue along current paths. The greatest issue for bighorns continues to be a slow recovery of Rocky Mountain bighorns along the Snake and Grande Ronde rivers. The main strategy for California bighorns is to continue reintroductions in suitable portions of their historic range. With populations of mountain goats in apparent decline and subsequent reductions in hunting opportunity, a new mountain goat research project is being initiated with federal funding. Moose populations continue to expand and management will focus on better documentation of suitable range and development of appropriate levels of harvest. Carefully regulated hunting will continue for all three species by issuing limited numbers of permits and managing for high success rates in these once-in-alifetime opportunities.
Black Bear Management
Preferred strategies for black bear management will emphasize resolution of public concerns for public safety, pet and livestock depredation, and property damage. Hunting opportunities will focus on these concerns as well as providing recreational harvest. The potential development of a spring hunting season to help address timber and property damage will be considered through strategies identified in the plan.
Population objectives and female harvest guidelines for each cougar management unit (CMU) have been identified in the plan. Monitoring strategies will be increased in units designated for cougar population reductions to provide greater assurances that hunting will not have a significant negative impact on the perpetuation of cougar populations. The strategies identify ways to improve monitoring protocols and data collection. WDFW will also identify areas where cougar survival is high and acting as a source for areas where survival is lower.
Similar to black bear management strategies, harvest will be focused in those areas with concerns for public safety and pet and livestock depredation. A recently initiated cougar research project will be continued to determine behavior and habitat use of cougars with an emphasis on the urban-wild lands interface.
Management of Migratory Birds
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Pacific Flyway states, including Washington, cooperatively manage migratory birds. Management efforts will continue to emphasize protection and enhancement of declining wetland habitats and to closely monitor harvest management. Refinement of harvest strategies will further emphasize regional differences and address crop damage concerns, while protecting populations of migratory birds of management concern. Studies will be developed to determine the impact, of snipe hunting on other wildlife (especially shorebirds) and investigate hunting impacts on mourning doves.
Management of Upland Game Birds
Strategies for upland game birds (pheasant, quail, and partridge) and wild turkeys will continue to focus on enhancing populations in suitable habitats and providing appropriate harvest opportunities for these largely non-native species. Wild turkey populations have expanded dramatically due to enhancement activities over the past twenty years. Several strategies were developed to re-evaluate current management direction, gauge the success of introductions, consider impacts to native wildlife, and determine future direction. Mountain quail are considered native to parts of south central and southeast Washington. Strategies are identified to reestablish mountain quail in their native range in eastern Washington and to better monitor harvest in western Washington.
Pheasants continue to be the focus of upland bird management efforts. Other upland bird populations such as California quail are either considered healthier or receive less attention from hunters. Dedicated and targeted funding for pheasant management is discussed with identified strategies for changes in funding emphasis. Access to private lands continues to be emphasized with strategies to focus on expanding opportunities in higher quality pheasant habitat and hunting areas. Forest grouse management strategies suggest emphasis on improving harvest management and population monitoring.
Management of Small Game Animals, Furbearers, and Unclassified Wildlife
Small game animal management strategies are largely focused on refining distribution information and addressing nuisance problems. Harvest and education strategies will attempt to minimize negative humanwildlife interactions and potential accidental harvest of protected wildlife.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2003. Game Management Plan. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington, USA.
Draft documents are provided for informational purposes only. Drafts may contain factual inaccuracies and may not reflect current WDFW policy.
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