Pilot Cougar Hunt

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Applications are available for prospective hunters who want to participate in the second year of a three-year pilot cougar-hunting season with the aid of dogs, beginning Dec. 1 in five northeastern Washington counties.

The deadline to submit the applications to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) is Sept. 15.

Hunting cougar with dogs was banned statewide by public initiative in 1996. However, in response to public safety and livestock depredation concerns, the Washington Legislature voted in 2004 to allow hunting cougar with hounds during specific seasons in Chelan, Okanogan, Ferry, Stevens and Pend Oreille counties, where cougar densities pose potential public-safety problems.

WDFW will submit a report on the pilot project to the Legislature at the conclusion of the 2006 season.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted Aug. 5 to establish the second year of the pilot cougar season with minor modifications. The Commission, which sets policy for WDFW, amended the special hunt rules to include requirements that cougar permit holders be dog owners certified by affidavit, and that the permit holders be on site when dog handlers release dogs to pursue cougars.

The special cougar hunt is by permit only. The hunt is limited to Washington residents who own hunting dogs that are capable of tracking and treeing cougar. Hunters can apply using the same application process as deer or elk permit hunts. Cougar permit applications can be purchased for $5.48 at http://fishhunt.dfw.wa.gov or by calling 1-866-246-9453. Hunters will be selected at random.

Hunt choices and permit levels are: Okanogan (hunt choice 9001) – 35 permits; Chelan (hunt choice 9002) – 12 permits; Okanogan-Ferry (hunt choice 9003) – 31 permits; and Stevens-Pend Oreille (hunt choice 9004) – 46 permits. Area descriptions, season rules, and more information are available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/hunter/cougar/index.htm and at all WDFW offices.

Applications also can be submitted online or by calling 1-877-645-3492. Applications must be submitted by midnight, Sept. 15. Hunters selected for a cougar permit will be notified by Sept. 30.