Olympia – With the state’s most popular deer-hunting season set
to start Saturday (Oct. 15), the Washington Department of Fish and
Wildlife (WDFW) is reminding hunters that cougars are also fair
game anywhere in the state.
Under this year’s rules, deer hunters with a valid cougar
license and transport tag can take a cougar during the
modern-firearms deer season in all 39 counties – including
Okanogan, Chelan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Klickitat.
That’s a change from recent years, when general cougar-hunting
seasons in those six counties were delayed to accommodate a pilot
program that allowed hunters with special permits to track cougars
In August, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission restored
full general hunting seasons for those counties after the pilot
program, in effect since 2004, expired.
“In those six counties, we’re back to relying on general hunts
to manage cougar populations,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager.
“We can make that work, but it does present some different
Ware said permit hunters using dogs generally took male cougars,
while those who encounter cougar during general hunts – without
dogs – are less likely to discriminate between the sexes. Under
state law, it is illegal to kill spotted cougar kittens or adult
cougars tending kittens.
Using dogs to hunt cougars was banned by a citizens’ initiative
in 1996, but later allowed by the Legislature under a pilot program
in counties reporting increasing conflicts with the big cats.
More than 100,000 hunters are expected to take to the field this
month for the modern-firearms deer season that runs through various
dates around the state. Cougar hunting is open through the end of
the year, although few are taken outside of the major deer and elk
hunting seasons, Ware said.