(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
HOUNDS? LOCAL CONTROL?: NE WA Wildlife group discusses more local action concerning predators…
Fresh off supporting a petition to the Stevens County Commissioners for more local action to be taken against cougars, the NE Washington Wildlife Group discussed what actions they could take next and what they would like to see happen in wildlife management in the area during May’s meeting.
The group has advocated keeping a four-point minimum on white tail bucks to help the population recover, and more local response to predator incidents. The group, which is drawing over 50 people to their monthly meetings, feels that WDFW is not managing the wildlife in Northeast Washington properly and that the predator count in the area is way too high.
Frustration over management of wildlife and predators was the top discussion by nearly all speaking members of the group in attendance at the Chewelah Casino. Many stated their worry is a predator will eventually end up attacking a human.
Stevens County Commissioner Wes McCart attended the meeting, explaining that the local authority that can take action against a predator is the Stevens County Sheriff. As the top law enforcement officer in the county, McCart pointed out he is the one who can act in a manner of public safety.
“People need to report wildlife conflicts to the Sheriff’s Department and WDFW so we can keep track of the information,” McCart said. “Jeff Flood will respond in a timely manner. If you call just WDFW, they do not share information with us.”
Recently elected Sheriff Brad Manke has been working with new county Special Deputy Jeff Flood, who primarily responds to wildlife conflicts. The group at the meeting, however, asked commissioner McCart why the sheriff isn’t ready to act and take over the management when it comes to wildlife from WDFW.
McCart said that Manke is a new sheriff trying to work with the department, and felt Manke would act if he felt public safety was threatened. Those in the meeting felt that the predator population could be a serious issue this summer, thinking that people coming up for summer camping or recreation not aware of the predators could become victims.
Stevens County resident and former Stevens County Republican Chair Grant Peterson spoke at the meeting saying that residents need to support Manke. He added that the sheriff needs to know people support him if he decides to manage wildlife conflicts more locally and added that he is doing everything through the proper channels because someone could turn around and sue him.
Leaders and residents in attendance of the NE Washington group also discussed the possibility of getting a lobbyist to help push their interests over in Olympia. Members of the Stevens County Cattlemen’s Association and Petersen said they knew some lobbyists the group might be able to use. Other topics included the use of lethal force against problem cougars. Dee Dee Isaacs, whose miniature donkey was killed in January, handed out papers listing Stevens County cougar incidents since 2018 that WDFW did not use lethal force against the cougar. After the handout was dispersed, a houndsman in attendance did point out that he had already killed 28 cougars in responding to cougar conflicts in 2019 while working with WDFW.
On the topic of hounds, McCart mentioned that there has been a push to get more hounding in the state, but right now all they have been able to work on is a pursuit season for houndsmen and no killing. It was presented as a bill in the state legislature for dog training. He said the west side is starting to see more cougars as well. A fatal attack happened last year near North Bend, and it was one of just two fatal cougar attacks in 100 years in the state. This comes as residents in attendance and NE Wildlife Group leaders feel the cougar population is way out of control and significantly higher than what WDFW is reporting. Later in the meeting, they discussed purchasing a billboard and encouraging members to post signs on their property that say generally that “hunting is closed in Stevens County due to predators” or “No elk or deer hunting, help protect our property and shoot predators” in hopes of showing people traveling from the western side of the state to hunt in the county realize what an issue predators are. They hoped to have a billboard outside of Spokane saying the same thing.
Members of the group felt this would certainly draw attention if the hunters coming into Stevens County were met with these types of signs.
The NE Wildlife Group holds their meetings at the Chewelah Casino at 6:30 p.m. on the fourth Wednesday of every month.