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June 13, 2016
Contact: Commission Office, (360) 902-2267

Commission approves changes to antlerless deer
harvest in northeastern Washington

OLYMPIA – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted to reduce the number of hunting days for antlerless deer in northeastern Washington at a public meeting June 10-11 in Olympia.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), agreed to reduce the number of antlerless white-tailed deer hunting days for archery to six days and eliminate the muzzleloader season for antlerless white-tailed deer in the region. These changes apply to game management units 101-121.

Commission Chair Brad Smith said the restrictions reflect concerns about deer herds affected last year by an outbreak of blue tongue disease, a virus caused by biting gnats. In April, the commission reduced the number of hunting days for antlerless deer for youth, seniors and hunters with disabilities to four days this year. WDFW had intended to propose these additional restrictions at the April meeting.

More information about the new restrictions will be available this week on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/

Also at the meeting, the commission voted to keep killer whales and streaked horned larks on Washington's endangered species list. WDFW recently updated status reviews for both species and recommended that they retain their current protected status. 

The draft review for killer whales is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01773/ while the draft review for streaked horned larks can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01774/

Washington has three major populations of killer whales, which have been listed as a state endangered species since 2004.

Two populations of whales, transient and offshore whales, roam the entire West Coast. The southern resident whale population, the population of greatest concern, consisted of 81 whales in July 2015, down 17 percent from 1995. Southern resident killer whales face numerous risks, including the reduced availability of chinook salmon, their main source of food. All three whale populations face various environmental threats from chemical pollutants, potential oil spills, and disturbance and noise from vessels. 

The streaked horned lark is a rare subspecies of lark found only in western Washington and Oregon. The lark was listed as endangered in Washington in 2006 and as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2013. Although recent surveys indicate the state's streaked horned lark population may be stabilizing, only 147 pairs were found in Washington in 2015.

Several problems threaten the streaked horned lark, including habitat loss, predation on nests and young larks and disease. Conservation actions – such as restoring habitat and protecting lark nests – have improved the outlook for lark recovery. However, the range-wide population remains low, especially in Washington.

­In other business, the commission approved WDFW's proposal to buy 3,600 acres in Klickitat County. The property, located in the Simcoe Mountains, will be incorporated into the Klickitat Wildlife Area, which is managed by the department.

Commissioners also were given an update by department staff on WDFW's Wild Future initiative. The effort reflects the agency's commitment to work with people throughout the state to address the most important challenges affecting fish and wildlife conservation. More information on the initiative and an opportunity for the public to comment are available on WDFW's website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wildfuture/

Additionally, WDFW staff gave the commission briefings on toxic chemicals in Puget Sound salmon, the effects of climate change on fish and wildlife, and ocean salmon ranching operations.