PAWS Magazine

 

Issue 47, Fall 2000

 

Fish and Wildlife decision returns sport hound hunting of cougars

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) recently approved a plan that returns sport hound hunting of cougars to Washington State. The plan nullifies many of the provisions of citizens’ Initiative 655, which banned sport hound hunting of cougars, bears and bobcats in 1996, and was passed by an overwhelming majority of the vote.

"This is really shameless," said Stephanie Hillman, PAWS Wildlife Advocate. "I-655 already allowed WDFW to use hounds to hunt cougars when public safety is at risk. These new rules allow the trophy killing of cougars who have never posed any threat."

Last March the Washington State legislature approved SSB 5001 which was intended to address specific public safety concerns, or ‘problem’ cougars. The bill was presented to the legislature as a "public safety measure." Governor Gary Locke signed the bill into law on March 31, 2000. SSB 5001 directed WDFW to draft a plan to implement the bill. At the time of the bill’s passage, citizens were told that SSB 5001 would not result in a return to trophy hunting, "But the plan that WDFW drafted does exactly that," said Hillman. "The plan allows for 74 cougars, ‘problem’ or not, to be unfairly hunted right away, and the number of cougar to be killed are decided a year in advance. It allows hunters to keep the trophy hide for mounting on their wall. Despite what we were told in March, this is clearly a return to trophy hunting with hounds." The plan also allows hunters to use professional guide services and the boundaries of the hunt may extend far beyond the area of any ‘said’ problem. Permits are issued on a lottery type basis, and the plan makes it very easy to obtain additional permits once the initial 74 cougars are killed. Although the WDFW plan refers to these kills as ‘public safety cougar removals,’ "We are not so easily deceived. A plan with these provisions was obviously not drafted for the sake of public safety," said Hillman.

The plan was to be presented at a series of public hearings, before the full Fish and Wildlife Commission voted on it. At a Wenatchee hearing on September 16th Wildlife Commissioners listened to five hours of public testimony. A large majority of the public urged them to reject the plan. Letters, phone calls, and e-mails to the Commission ran about 7 to 1 against the plan. Many of those opposed to the plan pointed out the lack of necessity for additional hound hunts, as well as the disregard for the citizens vote.

Despite the lack of public support for the plan, the Commission met in Olympia on October 6 and after much discussion and questions asked of the authors of the plan, approved the plan by a 5 to 4 vote. The commissioners who voted against the plan did express their wish to respect the voters decision on I-655, and did recognize that this hunt was merely an extension of what their department was already authorized to do.

"There is absolutely no scientific evidence or guarantee that shows that population control of this nature will have any effect on cougar-human interactions," said Hillman, "or do anything to alleviate any cougar ‘problems.’ In fact, it will do nothing more than allow the heads of cougars to be mounted on the walls of hunters."

Several wildlife biologists have noted that the killing of cougars, with or without hounds, will most likely do little to nothing to lessen the amount of cougar-human interactions.

Considering the extent of human destruction and encroachment into wildlife habitat, there have been extremely few attacks in the past several years. The two most recent attacks on humans here in Washington took place in an area where the highest number of cougars had been killed.



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