For Immediate Release, January 29, 2021
Sophia Ressler, (206) 399-4004, SRessler@biologicaldiversity.org
Washington OKs Controversial Training Program for Hound Hunting
SEATTLE— The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission voted 4-3 today to finalize new rules allowing hunters to use hounds to chase cougars and other wildlife. The controversial new rules specify which hunters can participate in the program and which requirements they must follow.
Today’s new rules implement a law passed in 2019 that required the department to establish the training program. The department can call on the handlers trained in this program to kill cougars or other wildlife that have had conflicts with livestock or are alleged to pose a public-safety concern.
Washington voters outlawed the use of hounds by recreational hunters by initiative in 1996. The training program created today allows the use of hounds to target animals in situations not covered by the 1996 law.
“I’m very concerned about the potential for abuse of hound hunting under this newly created program,” said Sophia Ressler, a Seattle-based staff attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Without additional safeguards and staff for enforcement, this new program doesn’t appear up to the task of protecting wildlife or the will of the voters who passed the initiative banning hound hunting.”
The new rules fail to safeguard wildlife by prohibiting pursuit of cougars during vulnerable time periods, such as their birthing season. The rules also lack requirements for controlling hounds or reporting requirements to provide transparency to the public.
Hound hunting in Washington state has been the subject of much controversy. The Center sued the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in 2018 challenging a program that allowed the use of hounds to hunt black bears to protect private timber interests on the grounds that the bears were harming trees. In October of this year the court invalidated that program, finding that the department had been illegally granting permits to private hunters to kill bears using hounds and bait.
“These rules don’t go far enough to protect wildlife or hounds,” said Ressler. “The rules don’t contain the necessary components to make sure the law is being followed and wildlife is protected. Bottom line, this is yet another attack on the state’s cougars. We’ll be closely monitoring the department’s implementation and enforcement of it.”
In April the commission increased the total number of cougars hunters can kill by almost 50%, adding an additional stressor to the vulnerable cougar population targeted by the new hound-hunting program.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.