Here in Washington, we try to manage our wildlife in attempt not to hurt anyone’s feelings. That must be why we outlawed hunting for bears and cougars with hounds. People have been hunting with dogs since the dawn of humanity but in our enlightened modern age hound hunting was seen as cruel and inhumane. Without a pack of hounds you have a very slim chance of ever seeing a cougar in the woods. It’s a once in lifetime event for most people. Even when you see a cougar it’s usually just a blur of motion with a long tail that’s gone faster than you can draw a bead on it. Of course it is always a good sign if the cougar is running away from you. It’s when they’re walking along slow you get worried. Cougars can weigh over 200 pounds. A cougar can take down a thousand pound bull elk. The struggle between a cougar and an elk can clear the forest floor down to bare dirt in a fifty foot circle. Then the cougar buries the kill with branches and forest litter to retire and watch it. Finding a cougar kill is an electric feeling like you’re never really alone. A big male will kill a deer or an elk every week or ten days. When good cougars go bad they will attack livestock. Which is a hard loss for any farmer but nothing compared to a bear’s appetite for destruction? Our bears can weigh 600 pounds. Bears are crafty, nocturnal binge eaters who can polish off a beehive, chicken coop, pigpen or sheep faster than I can eat a smoked salmon sandwich. Then every spring when buds of the fir and spruce are just opening, the bears peel the bark off the trees for a delicious inner layer that contains up to 5% sugar! One bear has been known to de-bark 7 trees a day. This often kills the tree which is part of the bear’s management plan. The snags that the bears manufacture allow light into the forest which makes more feed for the elk. Snags support over a hundred species of birds, bugs and animals that live in the wood and the holes carved by the Pileated woodpecker. Once the snags tumble to the ground they reward the bear’s patience with a smorgasbord of yummy bugs and grubs while acting as seed logs for another crop of trees. The Washington Forest Protection Association estimate the bear’s management plan costs Washington timber growers 5 million dollars a year.
The only thing tree farmers hate more than bears are the beavers. They not only kill the trees but wipe out roads when their dams break. According to the Department of Fish and Wildlife website, when all other methods of controlling cougars, bears and beavers have failed, “lethal removal of the problem animals may be the only alternative.” That means, hunting with hounds and trapping. Since these activities are politically incorrect, private citizens may not participate. Only professional varmint hunters need apply.
There is good money in varmint hunting these days and it can only get better as our wolf pack expands to the Olympic Peninsula. It cost $ 76, 500 to kill a pack of seven wolves that were killing cattle in Eastern Washington, which is only a small part of the $376,000 the State spent last year “managing” wolves, all financed by the sale of personalized license plates that include five new Wildlife Plates featuring an eagle, killer whale, elk, bear and mule deer. I say if the system ain’t fixed, don’t break it.