The Fish and Wildlife Commission on Friday rejected a petition asking it to reverse a decision earlier this year to increase cougar hunting opportunities in Northeast Washington, where late last week state wolf managers also announced that another depredation event by the Huckleberry wolf pack would trigger a lethal removal.
The Huckleberries were involved in a string of sheep kills last year, and in recent days, a guard dog protecting a flock on private land was confirmed to have been injured by wolves.
“… With the number of sheep now at about forty animals, our conflict specialist will work with the producer to identify the preventive measures that are feasible and appropriate for the situation, and to ensure the non-lethal tools are implemented to maximize their benefit. The Department will initiate lethal removal of wolves from the Huckleberry North group on the next confirmed wolf depredation event in the area,” said WDFW’s wolf policy lead Donny Martorello via email on Saturday, Aug. 21.
Meanwhile, the day before, the commission voted 7-1 to rescind its move earlier this year slightly liberalizing allowable cougar harvest this season in parts of the state also occupied by wolves.
The Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Northwest, Wolf Haven, Center for Biological Diversity and a former WDFW carnivore researcher had objected to the commission’s adding of one to three lions in the harvest guidelines for numerous units in Northeast, Southeast and North-central Washington.
But the commission did promise to revisit the issue next spring before setting hunting seasons for 2016 and 2017.
“Hunting pressure on cougars varies from year to year, based on weather, hunter participation and a lot of other issues,” said Larry Carpenter, commission vice-chair. “The changes the commission made to the harvest guidelines last April do not present a risk to our state’s healthy cougar population.”
Those guidelines raised the allowable harvest from 12 to 16 percent to 17 to 21 percent.
That would amount to a maximum of 30 more cougars killed this season, according to WDFW, which also reported last year’s statewide harvest was 163 out of a population of an estimated 3,600 lions.
The agency acknowledges the tweak to the hunting regs was “designed to provide some relief to communities beleaguered by multiple predatory species, including cougars and wolves.”