Hounds are loosed on cougars
BBVD,, can you hear me now?
I can give you article after article about the COUGAR problems.. and how ironic they seem to be after 1996,,,,,dah!
March 8, 2003
Hound hunters are looking for troublesome cougars this week in Stevens, Ferry and Okanogan counties as state officials respond to county-declared ""cougar emergencies."
The counties are working with state Sen. Bob Morton, R-Orient, to increase pressure on state officials to heed rural residents' safety and economic concerns about cougars.
Commissioners took their cougar concerns to state Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings a week ago Friday in Morton's Olympia office. Koenings directed his staff to issue permits this week that allow hound hunters to kill 14 cougars in ""hot spots" the commissioners identified.
The hunting was under way by midweek, but no cats had been reported killed by Friday. The hunting may continue until next Saturday under the special permits.
Stevens County Commissioner Tony Delgado and Ferry County Commissioner Mike Blankenship said they aren't optimistic the special hunts will succeed because lack of snow and moisture makes tracking difficult. But Blankenship said he appreciates the Fish and Wildlife Department's quick response.
""I think the department did make a good-faith effort to help us, and I respect them for that," Blankenship said.
He urged residents to respond by reporting cougar sightings and incidents so state officials ""have a better handle on the numbers and where to go." Routine houndhunting permits, designed to keep cougar populations in check, are issued on the basis of citizen reports.
The permits issued this week are the kind usually reserved for situations in which a cougar has just threatened or attacked people or domestic animals. In this case, the permits were issued on ""general public safety threats" identified by county officials, according to John Andrews, Eastern Region director for the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
""We will be working very hard in those areas that they have identified," Andrews said.
He said the hunting will be more difficult because the hunters don't know exactly where to start their hounds, as they would if a homeowner had just seen a cougar in his or her back yard. Although the permits expire March 15, Andrews said more will be issued as new threats are identified by homeowners.
Permits for 10 cougars were issued this week in Okanogan County, where three cats already were targeted. Stevens and Ferry counties each got two permits.
Delgado said one of the permits will be used in the vicinity of a school bus stop near Buzzard Lake, about eight miles north of Loon Lake. A number of sightings have been reported in that area, he said.
Blankenship said hunting in Ferry County will be focused near Republic, where a cougar has been prowling around a mobile home park, and in the Deadman Creek drainage about five miles north of the intersection of U.S. Highway 395 and State Route 20.
In Okanogan County, houndsmen are looking for 13 cougars in the Loomis, Pine Creek, Wauconda, Nine Mile, Oroville, Spring Coulee-Happy Hill, Twisp and Winthrop areas.
""I just hope it works," said Okanogan County Commissioner Mary Lou Peterson.
She said cougars have been spotted near the elementary school in Oroville and at the community center in Twisp, among other areas where public safety is threatened.
""I don't want to wait until we have a child killed or another one of our ranchers loses $40,000 in stock like we had two years ago," Peterson said.
Chelan County Commissioner Ron Walter sat in on the Feb. 28 meeting in Morton's office, but said his county so far is satisfied with Fish and Wildlife efforts to control what appears to be a growing cougar population.
Fish and Wildlife enforcement Capt. Steve Duma urged residents to report cougar problems on the department's hotline or to their nearest Washington State Patrol office. The hotline number is (800) 477-6224.