Hound training for cougar tracking highlights wildlife-human challenges
Conservation Northwest / Feb 25, 2021 / Cougars, Restoring Wildlife
In 2018 and 2019 we worked closely with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, tribal and conservation biologists, and other cougar interests to collaboratively draft and pass through the State Legislature House Bill 1516.
This policy will help quickly address cougar depredations and public safety issues by allowing a carefully-selected group of hound handlers to train their dogs through limited, non-lethal pursuit. HB 1516 became state law on July 28, 2019, and after some improvement in response to public comments, was approved by the Fish and Wildlife Commission on Jan 29, 2021. (Read more in this Spokesman Review article).
However, since passing this bill, and while the WDFW was working on guidelines for implementation, there have been troubling incidents in Klickitat and Stevens counties where the Sheriff’s Department has killed cougars found near towns, even those not causing problems with pets or livestock. This is a concerning breach of the responsibility for conservation and management of wildlife held in trust by the state on behalf of all Washingtonians.
We’re continuing to follow this issue closely as the new cougar-hound training program is rolled out. Check out this new two-part series from Northwest Public Broadcasting for perspectives from both sides of the debate.