The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission adopted restrictions on the use of bait to hunt deer and elk, but made few significant changes in state hunting seasons at a public meeting April 8-9 in Olympia.
The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), agreed to set a 10-gallon limit on the amount of bait hunters can make available to attract deer and elk at any one time.
The new rule, approved by a vote of 7-1, also prohibits establishing bait piles – usually apples, grain, or minerals – closer than 200 yards apart. Scents and attractants used by hunters are exempt from the new baiting restrictions.
Commission Chair Brad Smith said public meetings and opinion polls conducted by WDFW over the past year showed a diversity of opinions among hunters on the issue of baiting.
“This measure is not designed to prohibit the use of bait when hunting deer and elk, but rather to curb its excesses,” Smith said. “Many believe baiting is a legitimate strategy in certain types of hunting situations, including those for youths, seniors, and disabled hunters.”
The new baiting rule was approved along with a series of minor changes to hunting seasons initially established for deer, elk, bear, cougar and other game species last year as part of a three-year plan.
The most significant change reduces the number of hunting days for white-tailed deer in northeastern Washington. Last year, the commission expanded that hunt for young, senior, and disabled hunters from four days to 14 days, but reversed its decision in response to an outbreak of bluetongue disease in the area’s deer herd.
Several options for the cougar-hunting season were considered, but the commission unanimously voted to adopt hunting guidelines similar to those currently in effect. The commission also directed WDFW wildlife managers to continue working with community leaders to address concerns about cougars related to public safety and livestock depredation.
The commission also took action on several other issues:
- Brown pelican status: The commission voted to remove the large seabird from the state’s list of threatened and endangered species at the recommendation of the department. The species rebounded throughout the Pacific coast after the pesticide DDT was banned in 1972, and was removed from the federal Endangered Species List in 2009. Up to 10,000 brown pelicans now pass through the state each year, although their population varies in conjunction with the cyclical abundance of forage fish.
- Road-killed wildlife: Starting in July, people can legally salvage deer and elk killed by motor vehicles in all areas of the state except Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum counties, where only elk may be salvaged due to federal laws regarding endangered Columbian white-tailed deer. Those who salvage deer or elk will be required to obtain a permit from WDFW within 24 hours. For more information, see http://wdfw.wa.gov/licensing/game_salvaging/
- Chronic wasting disease: The commission added Michigan and Arkansas to the list of states that have discovered the disease in their deer populations. The disease has not been detected in Washington, which requires additional processing of deer, elk and moose carcasses imported from those states.
In other business, the commission approved two land transactions, including the transfer of 33 acres from the state Department of Transportation to the Mount St. Helens Wildlife Area. WDFW currently operates a fish-collection facility on the property, and the Green River Salmon Hatchery is located on the northeast parcel.
The commission also approved an access easement to the Port of Grays Harbor, which allows public access to the port’s property known as Sterling Landing on the Wynoochee River. WDFW does not use or maintain the road, and the port has agreed to assume maintenance obligations.