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Cougar hunting with dogs may get trial resumption

Thursday, September 30, 2004
The Columbian

OLYMPIA - A three-year experimental program to allow the resumption of cougar hunting with hounds in five northeast Washington counties will be considered by the state Fish and Wildlife Commission here Friday.

Hunting with hounds would be permitted in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties.

It would be allowed under state legislation passed earlier in 2004 in response to public safety and livestock depredation concerns.

The proposed program is designed to reduce the number of cougar in those counties by 22 percent over its three-year lifespan, said Donny Martorello, carnivore-special species section manager for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The program was developed cooperatively the department and county representatives.

Hunting cougar with hounds was banned statewide by public initiative in 1996.

However, recent legislation allows hounds to be used during specific seasons in the five counties for the next three years under the proposed program.

The department and the counties would be required to submit a report on the program to the Legislature at the end of the three-year period.

The commission will take public comment on the proposal during its workshop, which will be in Room No. 172 of the Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. S.E.

The new cougar-hunting season with the aid of dogs would run from Dec. 1 to March 31 in most game management units within the five counties.

A general cougar season without the use of dogs would run from Oct. 16-Nov. 19.

Martorello said the proposed program would establish a harvest quota of 102 cougar and a sub-quota of 40 female cats for the five-county area.

Hunting with hounds would be closed if either quota is met prior to the end of the seasons, and hunters would be able only to pursue cougar until March 31.

The new program would also:

* Create a mandatory training program for permit holders prior to participation in the season.

* Be limited to Washington residents who own dogs capable of tracking and treeing a cougar.

* Create a toll-free cougar quota phone hotline that hound hunters would be required to call within 24 hours before going hunting for updated season information.

Successful hunters would be required to report their harvest to the agency within 24 hours.

* Replace the current public safety cougar removal program in the five counties.

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