Cougar encounters rise and fall as rules for hunting change
Much about cougars remains a mystery. They are scarce, extremely elusive and far-ranging animals, with adult males typically staking out...
Seattle Times Olympia bureau
Much about cougars remains a mystery. They are scarce, extremely elusive and far-ranging animals, with adult males typically staking out more than 150 square miles of territory.
Cougar population estimates for Washington range from 2,400 to more than 3,000. Roughly half of the state is potential cougar habitat, though thousands of acres of habitat are lost or modified each year.
In 1996, Washington residents overwhelmingly approved Initiative 655, which outlawed hunting cougars and bears with hounds.
The number of confirmed cougar encounters statewide, averaging about 250 a year before the ban, soared to more than 900 by 1998. More recently they have dropped off but still average about 350 a year.
Amid the rising reports of cougar problems — and two nonfatal attacks on children in northeastern Washington in the late '90s — political pressure mounted in Olympia.
Since then, state wildlife managers have dramatically expanded cougar-hunting seasons, and in 2003 the Legislature approved a pilot project to once again allow hound-hunting for cougars in northeastern Washington.
The number of cougars shot annually is actually higher now than before I-655.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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