(GUEST EDITORIAL FROM NE WA WILDLIFE GROUP)
The Northeast Washington Wildlife Group believes our deer, elk and moose (ungulates), in NE Washington and elsewhere are in serious trouble with their numbers, quite possibly the whitetails being the lowest they have ever been. The 2019 harvest numbers have not been compiled to date but likely are at an all-time low. NWWG believes the primary driver for this is the number of predators (cougar, bear, coyote and now wolves) that occupy this part of the State.
WDFW is working on changing cougar seasons to increase the number of cats harvested and is now claiming that cougar density could be as high as 4.0 cougar per 100km2, up from the 2.1 that has been their stance for several years, going so far as to even use the word “saturation” when discussing how many cougars are present.
Our fear is they are not going to go far enough, that they are going to increase the quotas (guidelines) and maybe add a month to the season. While this will allow for more cats to be eliminated, we do not feel it will remove the number that needs to be removed. We advocate changing to the system that Idaho is using in the Panhandle. Instead of closing hunting down when a specific number of cougar have been taken as WA does, Idaho will start restricting cougar harvest when the harvest has dropped below a certain number for two consecutive years.
Incidents of cougar predation and encounters are also at an all-time high. 2018 was a “spike year” according to WDFW and this year it is even higher. Pets and livestock are being preyed on more and more, resulting in emotional suffering and a huge economic cost to our region. Predators need to eat in order to survive and unless we increase our ungulates and/or decrease the predators, this will continue to occur and it will only be a matter of time before another person gets hurt, or worse, killed.
One way to increase the deer numbers and achieve a more mature, healthy and robust deer herd is to implement a 4-point Antler Point Restriction (APR). This will improve the buck -to-doe ratio, thus insuring most, if not all does will be bred during the first and second estrus cycle and this in turn will improve the doe-to-fawn ratio by decreasing the predator take of newborns. Game Management Unit’s 117 and 121 had a 4-point APR for four years and was succeeding in doing this when WDFW terminated it in 2014. Incidentally, you should be aware that GMU 121 had the highest hunter success rate that year of any GMU in NE Washington. We advocate the 4-point APR on whitetail deer for all hunters, youth exempt (see Game Regs for definition) be implemented in District 1 (7 GMU’s: 101, 105, 108, 111, 113, 117 and 121).
NWWG is having an impact with WDFW, and they are listening to us. The addition this year of a second bear tag was due largely to NWWG’s pressure on WDFW; but we could use some support as this cougar problem is a heavier lift. This support could be as little as agreeing to the premise that we have a predator problem and adding your name to the organizations that believe so; to getting on board with NWWG and push for an “Idaho” plan; to help with lobby efforts if required; and maybe testify at the March Game Commission meeting in Tri-Cities.
Because of NWWG, over 60 people attended the March 2018 Game Commission Meeting for the cougar and deer hunting portions and almost all testified and pounded the Department on the public safety and ungulate situation because of WDFW’s management policies. They are still talking about it in Olympia and it is a primary reason why they are even considering changes, but if not enough is done now and we have to wait another 3 years…..?
Will you help? Any level of support will be appreciated. As stated earlier, this can be as little as backing us in the claim of too many predators; or to help us try to get a cougar season patterned after Idaho’s; or help with lobbying efforts; or recommend a 4-point APR on whitetail deer for all hunter groups, youth exempt, for all of District 1; or come down to the Tri-Cities with us in March and tell the Commission what you think. Pick the level your organization will agree on and let us know, and it would be a great asset if you would be so kind as to include the number of individuals you speak for as we all know there is strength in numbers. We proved that last March. Let us do so again. Please let us know where you stand.
Our address is: NWWG
5384A S. Wallbridge Rd
Deer Park, WA 99006
Email is: NWWG@outlook.com