– Today, Big Wildlife, a leading wildlife
advocacy organization in the Pacific Northwest,
slammed Washington Governor Chris Gregoire for signing into law legislation
that continues hound hunting of cougars in the state. The new law will extend a
pilot program that allows hunters to pursue cougars with dogs in five Washington counties.
Other counties may also participate in the hounding program.
“When Governor Gregoire signed the hounding bill today, she signed a death
warrant for cougars. Voters who overwhelmingly supported the 1996 ban on
hounding should be outraged by her action,” said Brian Vincent of Big Wildlife.
In 1996, voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 655 that banned the barbaric
practice of hound hunting cougars. Since then, trophy hunters, and their allies
in the legislature, have attempted to roll back the popular initiative. In
2004, the legislature established a three-year pilot program that allowed
hunters to pursue cougars with hounds in five counties: Chelan, Okanogan,
Ferry, Stevens and Pend OReille. The new
law will extend the hounding program for another three years and allow more
counties to participate, essentially gutting Initiative 655.
Biologists have found that cougar populations in the region may be in trouble
and that expansive, indiscriminate killing of the big cats does not reduce
conflicts. For instance, a study published in The Journal of Wildlife
Management in 2006 found that cougar populations in the Pacific
Northwest are actually declining due in part to increased
human intrusion on cougar habitat and a young age structure of the cougar
population caused by heavy hunting. And expansive hunting of cougars may be increasing
attacks by removing adult, resident cougars who are more wary of people and
opening up territory to younger, potentially more aggressive cougars.
Rather than killing cougars, Big Wildlife said Washington should be assisting communities
with developing non-lethal strategies that are far more effective in avoiding
encounters with the cats. For example, the state should be educating
individuals to take simple steps, like avoiding feeding wildlife, bringing pets
in at night, sheltering domestic farm and ranch animals, installing motion
lighting around their property, recreating with others while in cougar country,
and educating their families about cougars to help prevent conflicts with the