HUNTING -- Cougar hunting seasons will close Jan. 2 in several areas of Washington where harvest quotas have been reached, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced.
Of the state's 49 cougar hunt areas, four will close Jan. 2, including Game Management Units (GMUs) 105, 121, 145, 166, 175, 178, 574, 578, and 667.
Those GMUs are located in portions of Stevens, Asotin, Columbia, Garfield, Thurston, Lewis, Klickitat, and Skamania counties.
Here are further details from WDFW:
This is the third year the department has managed cougar hunts under a plan approved by the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission in 2012, said Dave Ware, WDFW Game Division manager.
That plan establishes harvest guidelines for specific areas of the state, based on cougar populations in those areas, Ware said. Under the plan, WDFW can close areas where the 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 - particularly older animals - in numerous areas throughout the state," Ware said. "Those older cougar tend to be more effective at maintaining sustainable populations."
Last year, hunters harvested 182 cougars statewide, up from 156 in 2012, 145 in 2011, and 108 in 2010. Ware said the number of cougars harvested this season is expected to be similar to last year.
Ware reminds hunters that additional cougar hunt areas may close before the late season ends March 31. Before going afield, hunters should check WDFW's website or call the cougar hunting hotline (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.