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Saturday, January 25, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Reductions in 2016 antlerless deer hunting approved

Antlerless deer and elk hunts are cut back this season. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
Antlerless deer and elk hunts are cut back this season. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)

HUNTING – The number of hunting days for antlerless deer hunting this season in northeastern Washington has been reduced  because of concerns that a 2015 blue tongue outbreak severely reduced whitetail numbers in certain areas.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted on the proposed season changes Friday and Saturday in Olympia.

For game management units 101-121:

  • The number of antlerless white-tailed deer hunting days for archery was reduced to six days.
  • The muzzleloader season for antlerless white-tailed deer was eliminated in the region.

In April, the commission reduced the number of hunting days for antlerless deer for youth, seniors and hunters with disabilities to four days this year.

Commission Chair Brad Smith said the restrictions reflect concerns about deer herds affected last year by an outbreak of blue tongue disease, a virus caused by biting gnats.

More information about the new restrictions will be available this week on WDFW's website.

Also aprroved at the meeting:

  • A proposal to buy 3,600 acres in Klickitat County was approved. The property, located in the Simcoe Mountains, will be incorporated into the Klickitat Wildlife Area, which is managed by the department.
  • Killer whales and streaked horned larks will remain on Washington's endangered species list. WDFW recently updated status reviews for killer whales and for horned larks and recommended that they retain their current protected status. 

Washington has three major populations of killer whales, which have been listed as a state endangered species since 2004.

Two populations of whales, transient and offshore whales, roam the entire West Coast. The southern resident whale population, the population of greatest concern, consisted of 81 whales in July 2015, down 17 percent from 1995. Southern resident killer whales face numerous risks, including the reduced availability of chinook salmon, their main source of food. All three whale populations face various environmental threats from chemical pollutants, potential oil spills, and disturbance and noise from vessels. 

The streaked horned lark is a rare subspecies of lark found only in western Washington and Oregon. The lark was listed as endangered in Washington in 2006 and as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2013. Although recent surveys indicate the state's streaked horned lark population may be stabilizing, only 147 pairs were found in Washington in 2015.

Several problems threaten the streaked horned lark, including habitat loss, predation on nests and young larks and disease. Conservation actions – such as restoring habitat and protecting lark nests – have improved the outlook for lark recovery. However, the range-wide population remains low, especially in Washington.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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