In 1996, Washington voters overwhelmingly passed Initiative-655 to ban the inhumane practice of hunting cougars with hounds. So as to not place the citizenry at undo risk, I-655 also included a "public safety" clause. This provision allowed the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFG) to utilize hounds to track and kill those individual cougars which posed a threat to the public's safety or preyed on domestic animals.
Over the years, this crack in Washington's cougar protection wall has been exploited over and over again by parties who can't stand to have others tell them what they can or can not do. The most recent assault on I-655's hounding ban comes from WDFW itself with their current proposed rule changes to Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 232-12-243.
No longer even pretending that they are acting for the safety of the people, WDFW officials want to, in effect, provide recreational opportunities for hound-hunters, by allowing them to kill up to (at this time) 109 cougars in those areas of the state where there might be a perception of a cougar problem. This is what WDFW wants to base their new cougar eradication program on--perceptions--not actual cougar problems or public safety threats, but baseless opinions and vague feelings; your basic "boogeyman in the closet" syndrome.
Just last month, cougar researchers from the University of Washington and Washington State University stated, in a forum for WDFW officials and other policy makers, that the current excessive killing of adult cougars in Washington is creating "sinks" where younger cougars, less skilled at avoiding humans, are moving into these newly vacated territories and getting into trouble. (See the Troubled Teens
article). These eminent biologists also informed attendees that cougars are a self regulating species which, if left alone, would balance their population numbers according to the availability of suitable habitat and their primary prey species--deer.
Unfortunately, WDFW has decided to ignore advice based on the latest, and best, scientific data on cougars and instead push for the Fish and Wildlife Commission's approval of WAC 232-12-243. If approved, this rule change will actually increase the likelihood of human-cougar conflicts, put the public at greater risk, and negate any short-term benefits rural residents might experience from a properly implemented livestock and pet protection program.
If you are a Washington resident, and want to help stop this betrayal of the public's trust, please consider attending the upcoming Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission hearing to voice your objections.
Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission Hearing
August 5th & 6th -- Hearing starts at 8:00 a.m.
Natural Resources Building
Conference Room # 172
1111 Washington Street S.E.
Olympia, Washington 98504
Contact MLF's Washington Field Representative, Bob McCoy at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you are planning on attending, but wish to narrow down when WAC 232-12-243 will be heard on the Commission's agenda.