THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE WASHINGTON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE
Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW), in cooperation with the Asotin County Road Department, is in the process of installing a vehicle gate on Cougar Creek Road near where it intersects with Grande Ronde Road.
Once installed, the gate will be closed annually from Dec. 1 to March 31, the same as other winter gate closures in the area and annual closures on the Asotin Creek Wildlife area. A combination lock will secure the gate, and the combination provided to owners of private properties behind it.
The purpose of the gate is to limit vehicle access to Cougar Creek Road to protect big game during crucial winter months. Elk and deer are particularly vulnerable in cold weather when their fat and energy supplies are extremely low. Annual surveys have shown that area elk populations have declined by up to 25% since the winter of 2017-2018.
During this same period, there has been an increase in vehicle traffic due to the surge in popularity of wintertime recreational antler hunting. While there is not a direct correlation between an increase in human presence in the area and lower elk populations numbers, human disturbance can cause animals to move more than usual, which burns energy reserves that are already in short supply in the winter.
The road closure will also reduce wear and tear on the road, which is soft and susceptible to damage during cold weather months.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is the state agency tasked with preserving, protecting and perpetuating fish, wildlife and ecosystems, while providing sustainable fishing and hunting opportunities.