The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is considering increasing the individual bag limit for mountain lions in the Blue Mountains.
The move is in response to monitoring by the agency that shows elk in the Blues are below agency objectives, low calf survival is preventing the herd from rebounding and most calf mortality is caused by mountain lion predation.
The rule would allow hunters to kill two lions per year in areas documented to have elevated cougar predation.
“This proposed rule is in response to a recent (department) monitoring effort that showed higher-than-expected calf mortality attributed to cougar predation in the Blue Mountains,” said Anis Aoude, game division manager for the agency at Olympia. “We are seeking your feedback on this proposed rule change.”
Agency officials and some members of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission were special guests at an Asotin County Commission meeting Monday in Clarkston. Frustrated residents of the county told the agency officials that the only way to recover the elk herd is to put more pressure on predators.
“If you want the elk to go up, the predators have to go down,” said Colby Witters. “If you do not do something about these predators that are rampant in southeastern Washington, then you guys are wasting your time.”
Jay Holzmiller, a former member of the Fish and Wildlife Commission from Anatone, wants the agency to go further. He said Thursday that increasing the cougar bag limit is fine, but it won’t make much of an impact if the agency doesn’t also increase the seasonal quotas.
The general mountain lion season runs from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31. Starting Jan. 1, seasons can close if harvest quotas are met in individual population management units. The rule would not change the season structure or increase the harvest quotas.
“It’s all lipstick on a pig,” Holzmiller said. “The biggest thing that screws us all the time is we hit the quota.”
For example, in January hunters on the west side of the Blues met the quota. County commissioners from Asotin, Garfield, Columbia and Walla Walla counties unsuccessfully petitioned the agency to leave the season open.
The proposal doesn’t mean the bag limit will be raised. The proposed rule would have to be approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission to take effect, and some members of the commission have signaled they are opposed to increasing mountain lion harvest.
The comment period is open through June 25. People can review the rule and leave comments at bit.ly/3wqc9ol. Comments may also be submitted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at WDFW Wildlife Program, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504-3200.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will host a public hearing on the rule at its June 23-25 meeting, with a decision scheduled for July 15.