(BRANDON HANSEN/Chewelah Independent)
CATS ON THE MIND: WDFW asking for public comment on cougar management…
Proposed cougar management guidelines were announced on the YouTube channel for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife last week, and now the department is looking for your input.
With local residents and the Chewelah-based NE Washington Wildlife Group and the WDFW saying the cougar population is getting saturated, many residents attended a WDFW Commissioner meeting in 2019 trying to explain their side of the story. Many local people feel their cattle, pets, children and own livelihood are at stake with the current population of cougars in the area.
Uploaded on Feb. 8 to the department’s YouTube page, Game Division Manager Anis Aoude explained the cougar hunting options the department could shift to.
“We made these different options because we heard from our folks who are concerned about cougar numbers,” he stated. “All the options we put forward are designed with cougar conservation in mind, we dont want to harm any cougar populations and we’re trying to maintain our options within the science we know.”
The options include maintaining the current harvest guideline but using a median number instead of a mean average to calculate density, changing count methods to only adult cougars and a variation of increasing guideline numbers in the areas that historically see higher harvest and conflict.
“We do want to hear from the public what they think about how we hunt cougars and maybe how we should be hunting cougars,” Aoude said.
The department has videos on the four proposed options (at youtu.be/8G_naHin_ys) and current management practices (at youtu.be/slfoanRAK9s).
OPTION 1: STATUS QUO – BUT CHANGE
TO MEDIAN AVERAGE
The first option is to keep the status quo when it comes to cougar harvest guidelines, but use a median instead of the past method of mean.
The difference between the two methods is with a mean, the sum of all numbers in a data set is divided by the amount of numbers in the set. The median is the middle point of a number set in which half the numbers are above and half the numbers are below.
“It’s more representative of what is out there,” Aoude said. “We would use the median of cougars in an area and set our hunting guidelines to the 12-16 percent range, which is the rate of growth in the populations.”
OPTION 2: ONLY USE ADULT COUGARS IN THE GUIDELINES
Adult cougars would only be counted against hunting quotas, as opposed to adults and sub adults. WDFW calculates adults as 24 months or older.
“Only counting adult cougars towards the guideline has the potential to increase the harvest by 30 percent,” Aoude said.
Currently, about 30 percent of cougars harvested are sub-adults, or cougars younger than 24 months.
OPTION 3: USE HISTORICAL HIGH HARVEST LEVELS TO SET GUIDELINES
WDFW would look at the highest level of harvests in previous years for Game Management Units (GMUs) and use those as guidelines to keep them open past Jan. 1 in four out of five years.
“The assumption is the density is higher in units with higher harvests,” Aoude said.
Aoude added that the department is trying to stick to a number of four cougars per 100 square kilometers but in some GMUs, this would push it past four cougars harvested per 100 squar kilometers, so they would have to scale back the number to avoid harming cougar populations.
OPTION 4: SAME AS OPTION 3, BUT ONLY USING ADULT COUGARS
Option 4 would be the same as Option 3 but would use just adult cougars harvested numbers as opposed to sub adults and adults. This has the potential for additional cougars to be harvested.
WDFW is offering a digital open house on the proposals Thursday, Feb. 13 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. available at player.invintus.com/?clientID=2836755451&eventID=2020021000.
The department will now have open comment on the cougar management options and general hunting guidelines through Feb. 26 before it finalizes hunting rules and regulations proposed for the upcoming 2020-2021 hunting season.
The full set of hunting proposals are available on the department’s website at https://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/regulations/season-setting.
The NE Washington Wildlife Group has also been taking surveys from people in NE Washington about the current predator situation. They’re urging people to also send their public comments to WDFW about the predator situation. The group is busy compiling the results from their own survey to present to WDFW Commissioners later this spring.
To make a public comment about these guidelines, you can go to https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/FWCFEB
Written comments may be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or mailed to: WDFW Wildlife Program
PO Box 43200 Olympia, WA 98504
A public hearing will take place on March 13-14, 2020 at 8 a.m. at the Red Lion Columbia Center at 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd. in Kennewick.