“We can’t keep going the direction we’re going,”
Rep. Joel Kretz (7th District)
In a letter to members of the Department of Fish and Wildlife commission today, Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, asked the commissioners to take action to help decrease the number of human/cougar conflicts in his northeast Washington district.
“The number of human/cougar interactions is skyrocketing around the state, and especially in northeast Washington,” said Kretz. “Threats to public safety, livestock and pets is pretty much at an all-time high. It’s time for a change in hunting rules – increased bag limits or year-round seasons – anything to help put a dent in what we’re seeing right now.”
Kretz, who has sponsored several cougar bills over the last decade, has tried to find a workable solution through the legislative process in Olympia. However, he says his proposals continue to be met with bias and skepticism from many Puget Sound lawmakers.
“I really don’t think the situation in Olympia is going to change until certain legislators have some skin in the game,” said Kretz. “Or, God forbid, one of their constituents or a child is attacked and killed. That’s the reality of it right now. I’m hoping the commission will be more understanding and receptive.”
According to statistics given to Kretz by the Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), the number of cougars killed by the state because of conflict or safety concerns has quadrupled in the past five years:
Cougars removed by WDFW officers in 2015: 26
Cougars removed by WDFW officers in 2016: 27
Cougars removed by WDFW officers in 2017: 32
Cougars removed by WDFW officers in 2018: 80
Cougars removed by WDFW officers in 2019: 105
While Kretz is grateful that WDFW officers have responded to the uptick in cougar threats to the general public, he is concerned that the public is now paying for something that hunters used to for free, and even paid the state to do via hunting licenses and fees.
“I’m open to anything at this point,” said Kretz. “I’ll work with anyone, anytime, anywhere if they think they have an idea that can work in today’s political realities. I’d love to bring back hound hunting. That would fix the problem in three to five years as cougars once again learned to fear dogs instead of hearing that bark as an easy meal. In the meantime, perhaps we look at expanded seasons, increased bag limits, or the pilot program being done by the Kalispell Tribe where they use hounds to run and tree the cougars to instill fear in them once again.
“We can’t keep going the direction we’re going, period,” said Kretz. “The path we’re on now leads to a horribly injured innocent person or a dead child. In fact, the last time we had cougar problems like this, three children in my district were horrifically attacked, with one suffering permanent brain damage. Unless we’re prepared to accept another episode like that – and I’m not – something has to be done. I’m hopeful the commission will recognize this and take action.”
Kretz sent his letter to the commission this morning as they are set to meet on Friday, March 13 in Kennewick to discuss, in part, potential changes to cougar hunting regulations in Washington state.
To view a copy of Kretz’s letter, click here.