Commission Sets Waterfowl and Cougar Hunting Rules
The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission set fall waterfowl hunting seasons, adopted amendments to cougar hunting with hounds, and set a $10 penalty for failure to report hunting activity at a meeting here Friday.
The Commission’s nine members, appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), meet periodically at locations across the state.
Waterfowl hunters will have seasons similar to last year, based on relatively stable duck and goose populations and federal guidelines.
Duck hunting season will run Oct. 15-19 and Oct. 22 – Jan. 29. Pintails, which have increased in numbers, are included in that 107-day season this year; in past years, pintails have been restricted to shorter seasons. Canvasbacks are the exception this year, restricted to a Dec. 1 – Jan. 29 season due to declines in their numbers. Scaup populations are down slightly so the daily bag and possession limits have changed from four and eight to three and six.
Goose hunting seasons vary by management areas across the state, but most open Oct. 15 and run into January. Adjustments due to population changes include reductions in cackling goose and Pacific brant bag limits, and increases in snow geese bag limits.
Steve Pozzanghera, deputy assistant director for WDFW’s wildlife program, noted that a one day per week extension of the southwest Washington Canada goose season was made possible by legislative funding sponsored by Rep. Brian Blake to cover the cost of check stations required to monitor dusky goose harvest.
The Commission approved amendments to nontoxic shot requirements to reflect federal allowances for new nontoxic shot types, and updated boundary descriptions for waterfowl reserves and closures.
Complete waterfowl hunting rules will be available in pamphlet form and on the WDFW website (http://wdfw.wa.gov ) later this month.
The Commission amended rules for the second year of a three-year pilot program that allows the use of dogs for permit holders to hunt cougar in five counties of northeast Washington (Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille) where cougar densities pose public safety problems.
Changes include requirements that cougar permit holders be dog owners certified by affidavit, and be on site when dog handlers release dogs to pursue cougars. A pursuit-only permit drawing also was added to allow pursuit after cougar harvest quotas are reached, in an effort to modify cougar behavior. The changes were developed collaboratively with local county officials.
Complete details of the special permit season and rules, and general cougar hunting without dogs, will be available in pamphlet form and on WDFW’s website later this month.
The Commission established a $10 penalty for failure to file the required deer, elk, bear and turkey hunting activity report.
The penalty is aimed at improving compliance with reporting requirements, explained Dave Ware, WDFW game division manager. Ware said less than 65 percent of hunters currently file the required report, while over 90 percent compliance is needed to accurately manage the game species.
The penalty will take effect this hunting season and hunters who fail to report their activity by January 31, 2006 will be required to pay the $10 penalty prior to purchasing their 2006 big game licenses and tags.
In other action, the Commission approved two land acquisitions:
* A 2,362-acre area of shrub-steppe habitat for sharp-tailed and sage grouse and other species adjacent to WDFW’s West Foster Creek Wildlife Area near Bridgeport in Douglas County for $850,000 from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program;
* Just over 126 acres of waterfowl and shorebird feeding habitat near Aberdeen in Grays Harbor County for $467,500 from a federal North American Wetlands Conservation grant.
The Commission also received briefings on:
* WDFW and landowner collaborative efforts to address elk damage in Kittitas County;
* Double-crested cormorant depredation of fish;
* Development of a new Hunter Education student manual;
* Gov. Christine Gregoire’s Government Management, Accountability and Performance (GMAP) directive to improve state government.
At the Commission meeting, WDFW Director Jeff Koenings presented WDFW wildlife research scientist Michael Schroeder with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ 2005 Outstanding Contributor of the Year award for his work on prairie grouse population documentation.
The day before the meeting, Commissioners helped Governor Christine Gregoire and other state and local elected officials dedicate WDFW’s new eastern Washington regional headquarters at 2315 North Discovery Place in the Mirabeau Point development in Spokane Valley.
The new office replaces a 50-plus-year-old facility that accommodated only 15 of near 40 local staff over the past 40 years.
“This new building provides space for all local staff for the first time,” Koenings said. “Co-location fosters team work and collaborative solutions to fish and wildlife issues.”