WILDLIFE -- The protective status of four wildlife species and proposed steps to reduce elk hoof disease in Western Washington are on the agenda for the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting Friday and Saturday, Aug. 4-5, in Olympia.
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officials will present their proposals to list yellow-billed cuckoos as an endangered species in Washington and elevate the level of state protection for loggerhead sea turtles from threatened to endangered.
In 2014, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service distinguished the cuckoo in western North America as a distinct population and listed it as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. The north Pacific population of loggerhead sea turtles has declined substantially in the past 70 years.
The commission is expected to make a decision on the status of these two species at its meeting in September.
Leatherback sea turtles are proposed to remain listed as a state endangered species and green sea turtles would remain listed as state threatened species. Neither shows significant signs of recovery, wildlife officials say.
Several budget reports will be considered and commissioners also will discuss requiring hunters to remove and leave behind the hooves of any elk harvested in six game management units in an effort to reduce the spread of elk hoof disease, a debilitating bacterial disease. The state already requires these precautions in many management units in southwest Washington. The new proposal adds two management units in Mason County as well as four in north Puget Sound, where WDFW recently confirmed the presence of elk hoof disease.
Wildlife managers also will ask commissioners to approve changes to regulations for auction, raffle or special incentive permits for hunting big game and wild turkeys. The proposed changes would clarify where permit holders can hunt and which animals can be legally hunted.
In other business, the commission will hold a public hearing on proposed changes to spring bear hunting seasons. Those changes include reducing the number of permits available in the Long Beach area and expanding the hunting area near Copalis.
Commissioners will also take public input on planned changes to Puget Sound clam and oyster seasons.