OLYMPIA – With current enrollment nearing 2,000 hunters, the Master Hunter Permit Program administered by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has stopped accepting new applications for membership until further notice.
The enrollment freeze is designed to give the department time to absorb an increase of nearly 30 percent more certified master hunters over the past four years and clearly define the program’s role, said Sgt. Carl Klein, WDFW program manager.
“Since 1992, the program has produced a highly skilled pool of volunteers that assist the department in controlling wildlife damage,” Klein said. “Now we need to make sure we can utilize the skills of all master hunters.”
Klein said WDFW often calls on master hunters to participate in hunts designed to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety. To maintain their certification, master hunters are required to participate in volunteer projects, ranging from maintaining elk fences to restoring wildlife habitat.
Mike Britton, chair of WDFW’s Master Hunter Advisory Group, said he supports the department’s review of the program.
“There is an urgent need for WDFW to identify priority volunteer needs and to actively engage master hunters in meaningful work,” he said.