SB 5613: Washington State Serves as a Cautionary Tale

Whenever the animal-rights movement pushes anti-hunting legislation or ballot initiatives in a state, they leave exemptions in place to garner public support. Those caveats usually allow county, state and federal agencies the power to kill animals presenting a danger to the public. Without this exception, legislation and ballot initiatives would face an uphill battle. But, as Washington state now clearly illustrates, animal activists’ only goal is to end the human killing of all predators and prey, regardless of its impact to society. Public safety and welfare be damned.

Washington state Senate Bill 5613, which is scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Jan. 18 in the Agriculture, Water, Natural Resources & Parks at 1:30 p.m., would remove the ability of county-level agencies to kill problem mountain lions that pose a threat to the public. This caveat was part of Initiative 655, which passed in 1996 and banned the use of hounds for bears and mountain lions, as well as bait for bears.

In the nearly 25 years since the passage of I-655, human-lion and -bear conflicts have increased, as has timber damage from bears (one reason for the spring season) and depredation issues related to livestock and wildlife. It’s so bad, counties in the southeast corner of the state have asked for an emergency extension on mountain lion season to combat the issues.

These problems have created a rift between the state, which is often slow to react and reluctant to kill problem cats, and county sheriff departments that have started to forego waiting for cat-cuddling state employees to act. I-655 clearly grants county authorities the power dispatch cats that in their opinion pose a threat to the public, and Klickitat County deputies, in particular, have acted on this power.

Klickitat county in southwest Washington sits along the Columbia River and on one side is the epitome of the Pacific Northwest: green forests lining the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, and on the other, flatter, more arid ranching and farming land. In other words, perfect cougar country. Just across the river in Mount Hood National Forest, a hiker was stalked and killed by a mountain lion in 2018. A few months before, to the north of the county, two mountain bikers were attacked by a lion – one was severely maimed and the other killed and partially consumed.

It’s no wonder the sheriff departments take mountain lion issues seriously and have acted quickly to legally kill 27 problem cats (according to the state) over the last year. The state cites seven other cougars removed by local law enforcement statewide during that same time. By the looks of the state’s Wildlife Conflict – Dangerous Incident Report map, Klickitat County and every other local law enforcement agency have been conservative in their use of force. However, now, if SB 5613 gains traction, Klickitat County, or any other in the state, will be left with no recourse to deal with problem mountain lions.

Some Washington state legislators, and even Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife staff, believe the Klickitat County sheriff’s office is too quick on the trigger when it comes to dealing with problem mountain lions. In one of the recent commission committee meetings, the state, apparently, has even started a program that makes $50,000 from the general fund available to local law enforcement – only IF they sign an agreement with WDFW that recognizes management authority is vested in the department and will follow their criteria for actionable public safety issues related to cougars.

Whether or not local sheriff departments have shot “too many” problem mountain lions is subjective, and whether it was needed or not is also. What’s clear, however, is that Washington state should serve as a cautionary tale to the rest of the country by perfectly exemplifying how insidious and dishonest animal-rights activists really are when it comes to legislation and ballot initiatives. I-655 was sold to the public with safeguards in place to ensure their safety. The anti’s move now to remove these safeguards illustrates their true motive all along. Even when they pass the legal measures they want, they come back for more. They won’t be happy until all predator management, and all hunting, has ended, regardless even of human safety.

About the Sportsmen’s Alliance: The Sportsmen’s Alliance protects and defends America’s wildlife conservation programs and the pursuits – hunting, fishing and trapping – that generate the money to pay for them. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is responsible for public education, legal defense and research.  Its mission is accomplished through several distinct programs coordinated to provide the most complete defense capability possible. Stay connected to Sportsmen’s Alliance: OnlineFacebookTwitter and Instagram.