Cougars are classified as big game in the state of Washington. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, populations in the western portions of the state are stable, while populations in the east are declining. In 2008, WDFW estimated that there were between 2,000 and 2,500 cougars in the state.
On March 13, 2008, Washington House Bill 2438 was signed allowing a cougar pursuit/kill season with dogs to continue for 3 additional years, for a total of 7 years as part of a continuing pilot program. Currently, hounds are prohibited statewide except for management removals conducted by the Department.
In 2010, researchers in Washington published an extensive report on outreach and education regarding cougars. This progressive document had a number of significant findings, including:
- the importance of dialogue about coexistence with cougars
- the need for fair, timely, and coordinated response to cougar incidents
- people value cougars and are often misinformed about their ecology and behavior
- people want information about cougars and hold themselves responsible for reducing encounters with the animals
Researchers in Washington continue to investigate topics including population size, survival, and change in predation events. Some of the best available science regarding cougar management (particularly the relationship between sport hunting of predators and livestock conflicts) is coming out of the state.
Cougars may be pursued from September 1 through March 31. Hounds are prohibited.
In 2013-2014, hunters killed 139 cats, 78 of which were female.
For the 2014-2015 season, a statewide quota of 277 has been set. In recent years, quotas have continued to increase even though hunter harvest remains fairly low.