Washington -(Ammoland.com)- The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission today voted to reject a petition by several environmental organizations to rescind a decision made earlier this year to increase harvest levels for cougars in areas of the state with confirmed wolf packs.
Commissioners voted 7-1 to reject an immediate revocation of the new harvest guidelines, but made a commitment to revisit the issue next spring before setting hunting seasons for 2016 and 2017.
The commission is a citizen panel appointed by the Governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW).
“Hunting pressure on cougars varies from year to year, based on weather, hunter participation and a lot of other issues,” said Larry Carpenter, commission vice-chair. “The changes the commission made to the harvest guidelines last April do not present a risk to our state's healthy cougar population.”
The new guidelines, approved in April, raised the allowable harvest rate for cougars to 17-21 percent from 12-16 percent in 14 areas of the state with wolf packs.
According to WDFW wildlife biologists, the new harvest guidelines could increase the state's annual harvest by 15 to 30 cougars during the coming season. According to data collected by the department, hunters harvested 163 cougars statewide in 2014 from a total estimated population of 3,600 animals.
Commissioner Miranda Wecker, who proposed the increased harvest guidelines as an amendment to the state's hunting seasons for the next three years, said the new guidelines were designed to provide some relief to communities beleaguered by multiple predatory species, including cougars and wolves.
At the commission's direction, WDFW will prepare recommendations on cougar harvest guidelines for the 2016 and 2017 hunting seasons for the panel's consideration during public meetings scheduled in March and April of next year.
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