Washington’s Fish and Wildlife Commission will tomorrow make a decision on a petition calling on the citizen panel to reverse the slightly liberalized cougar hunting regs it approved earlier this year.
The Humane Society of the United States, Conservation Northwest, Wolf Haven, Center for Biological Diversity and a former WDFW carnivore researcher 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.
Those areas also happen to host another furry fanger — wolves — and the colonization thereof was cited as part of the reason for the move.
“The logic is that we have tremendous social conflict under way,” explained Commissioner Miranda Wecker in audio from the April 9-10 meeting. “I don’t believe that in any of these GMUs the small changes that I’ve proposed will make a difference in the health of cougar populations. I’ve been assured by staff that is the case … It will have a beneficial effect, I believe, of giving some consideration to that communities that live in these GMUs in which wolf packs are now operating.”
Cougar harvest has been set to remove up to 12 to 16 percent of the big cats in each unit to maximize hunting ops while also helping maintain the stability of the populations and avoid conflicts with people and livestock.
The effect of the commission’s 7-1 decision to go ahead with the chance raised the potential harvest guideline to 17 to 21 percent.
In their petition, the groups called it a “procedural and scientific misstep and the Commission is legally required to take action to bring cougar hunting quotas back to a sustainable level.”
But Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association was paraphrased in a Seattle Times article as explaining it was part of “a step toward a more holistic approach to predator management.”
“We can’t just let predators grow exponentially, unchecked,” he told reporter Sandi Doughton.