Washington's Hoh Mountains
Photo of WDFW's Bruce Richards giving a talk about wildlife and the department's Karelian Bear Dog Program on a field to a group of families.


Hound hunters continue to pressure government officials to allow the use of dogs to hunt lions.

According to Washington's own best estimates, the State's cougar population has been cut in half since 2003 and little is being done to reverse the damage. In the past 25 years, people have killed more than 4,500 cougars. Sport hunting combined with losses from habitat fragmentation, roadkill, community intolerance and orphaning are putting the future of Washington's cougar in jeopardy.

But it's not too late! With your help, we can stop the hunt and put in place protections to ensure a sustainable, ecologically effective cougar population for generations to come. Please, become a cougar activist today!

  • Return to the portal page for Washington State.

  • The status of Puma concolor in Washington.

  • State law and regulations affecting cougars.

  • The history of cougars in Washington.

  • Ecosystems and habitat in Washington.

  • Cougar science and research in Washington.

  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

Reduce the Unnecessary Killing of Cougars

Washington's current Cougar Management Plan acknowledges there are far fewer cougars in Washington than previously thought. The plan estimates cougar populations are down by half: from the maximum estimate of 4,100 reported in 2003, to somewhere between 1,800 and 2,100 in 2015.

Despite acknowledging cascading cougar population numbers, increased female cougar mortalities, reduced cougar complaints, and unbalanced and unsustainable cougar gender and age dynamics, recreational hunting of cougars is still permitted.

Washington sport hunters annually shoot around 100 to 150 lions, and the use of hounds was banned in 1996 by a citizen-sponsored initiative (Initiative-655). The public overwhelmingly supported the legislation which made it illegal for hunters to use bait to attract black bears, or to hunt a black bear, cougar, bobcat or lynx with the use of hounds. Exceptions were only granted for emergency cases when a specific threatening animal needed to be tracked and killed.

Unfortunately, legislation since that time has expanded the loophole and now allows for the use of hounds in special public safety hunts which are designed to indiscriminately kill cats to reduce the overall size of the population in the hopes this will reduce the odds of a conflict.

From the year 2000 to 2011, more than 460 cougars were killed under these misguided safety hound hunts. WDFW found this program was not achieving the desired goal of increasing public safety — it was actually making things worse — and the Department stopped issuing the special hound permits in 2011.

Houndsmen refuse to give up their pastime and virtually every year attempt to pass legislation or amend regulations to force WDFW to allow hound hunts. MLF has been effective at stopping these attempts every time because of our vocal Washington members.

When you see hound hunting proposed in your local newspapers or at WDFW meetings, we urge you to calmly and respectfully respond with the facts:

  • A hound amendment would be a redundant authorization of public safety hound hunts — WDFW already has this tool at its discretion anytime they determine it appropriate and necessary to use hounds to help kill cougars.
  • WDFW does not recommend reinstating hound hunts. Such legislation would force the Department to implement a wildlife killing program they know is unsuccessful and potentially dangerous.
  • Hound legislation is not supported by the Department, scientific research, or the majority of citizens in Washington.
  • Washington residents have repeatedly shown we do not support the use of hounds to track, tree, and kill wildlife for fun. It's a cruel and outdated unsportsmanlike hobby that needs to remain illegal.
  • A hound hunting season would allow hunters to kill cougars that have posed no threat to people, which may actually increase the percentage of problem cougars in our state.

Graph of human-caused cougar mortality in Washington.

Click here to view our Activist Guide...

Becoming a Mountain Lion Activist

There are lots of opportunities to take action!

Are you new to mountain lion activism? You want to change your local environment to improve it for cougars... but you don't know how to start. You may feel like you are all alone... but it takes just one person to change the attitudes and lifestyles of hundreds of others. You don't need to belong to a group. It doesn't take special skills or superhuman abilities. You just need to care enough about cougars to want to help them survive. You've already done the hard part, now let us help you with the next step.

Managing the Big Cats

08/27/13 Guest Commentary from Ann McCreary, Methow Valley News

In this reposting of a Methow Valley News article, journalist Ann McCreary discusses the latest cougar research in Washington and how it's reshaping management of this often misunderstood cat. Biologists are learning that killing more mountain lions can increase conflicts with people. The long-ignored social structure and territorial habits of lions are key factors. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists are striving for a more science-based approached to creating lion policies in the state.

ON AIR: Gary Koehler on Applying Science to Attitudes

01/21/12 An Audio Interview with Julie West, MLF Broadcaster

In this edition of ON AIR, MLF Volunteer Julie West interviews cougar biologist Gary Koehler about his experience with mountain lion and human populations in Washington. Koehler sheds light on the difficulty of applying scientific research about lion behavior to human attitudes and management.

Click here to open a new window and visit the agency's website...

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

Commonly abbreviated as: WDFW

Jim Unsworth, Director

Main Office:
Natural Resources Building
1111 Washington St. SE
Olympia, WA 98501

Mailing Address:
600 Capitol Way N
Olympia, WA 98501-1091

Cougar and Bear Specialist
Richard Beausoleil
3515 State Highway 97A
Wenatchee, WA 98801

Please write to the director and express your concern for cougars in Washington.

Thank the Department when they take steps to protect our state's cougars. Politely ask for policy reform and more officer training when they fall short of expectations.


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