Cougar hunts in several areas of the state will close at 12:01 a.m. Jan. 15 after harvest guidelines for the animals were reached in those areas, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) announced today.
Game Management Units (GMUs) that will close include 105, 108, 111, 117, 121, 145, 149, 154, 157, 162, 163, 166, 175, 178, 328, 329, 335, 642, 648, and 651.
Those GMUs are located in Stevens, Pend Oreille, Garfield, Asotin, Walla Walla, Columbia, Kittitas, Chelan, Grays Harbor, Mason and Thurston counties.
Dave Ware, WDFW game manager, said this season’s cougar hunts are the first under a new management plan, approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission early last year.
The new plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas, said Ware. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where cougar harvest meets or exceeds guidelines, while continuing to allow for hunting opportunities elsewhere.
“The goal is to preserve a variety of cougar age classes in numerous areas throughout the state, particularly older animals which tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations,” Ware said. “Going into this season we expected to have to close some areas, but even with these closures most of the state remains open for hunters.”
Ware reminds hunters that during the late-season cougar hunt – Jan. 1 through March 31 – other areas of the state could close early. Before going afield, hunters should check WDFW’s website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/hunting/cougar/ or call the cougar hunting hotline (1-866-364-4868) to check which areas of the state remain open.
Any additional closures will be posted on the website and hotline, both of which will be updated weekly.
Image courtesy Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife