Washington residents support legal fishing, but more than ever they don’t care either way, survey finds

While the majority of Washington residents support legal fishing, more people don’t, according to a survey by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife released Thursday.

“Approval for legal, regulated hunting has dropped significantly, going from 88% in 2014 to 75% in 2022. Likewise, support for hunting for all reasons or given scenarios has decreased,” according to the report by a Virginia-based investigative research firm focused on outdoor recreation. and natural resources. However, this was not accompanied by marked increases in opposition; Instead, higher percentages of the population give neutral or “I don’t know” responses. Indeed, some of the questions show a decline in both support and opposition.”

This finding reflects the continued decline in hunter participation at the state and national levels, and according to the survey, only 4% of Washington residents fished in the past year.

The report looked at a number of other issues including Washington’s attitudes toward predator management and views on human-wildlife conflict.

Surveyors received 965 completed questionnaires from Washington 18 years or older. The sampling error is 3.5% and the surveys were conducted over the phone and online. The same company conducted similar surveys for Washington in 2002, 2008 and 2014.

Notable results included:

  • Two-thirds of Washington residents (66%) are satisfied with a variety of options for enjoying fish and wildlife resources across the state; 37% are very satisfied. This compared to only 9% dissatisfied.
  • The majority of residents participated in hiking (65% did) and wildlife viewing (56%) in Washington within the past two years, and 4% of residents had fished in Washington within the past 12 months.
  • Just over two-thirds of the population (68%) has participated in any outdoor recreational activities on public land in Washington within the past two years, compared to 29% who have not.
  • In an even split, 47% of residents have engaged in outdoor recreation on private property in Washington in the past two years and 47% have not.
  • More than a quarter (28%) of the population are members or donors to an organization that promotes wildlife conservation or habitat improvement.

The survey also looked at attitudes toward managing predators that found that:

  • The vast majority of the population (80%) support maintaining sustainable predatory populations in Washington’s ecosystem, with 46% strongly in favor. Only 7% oppose.
  • The population was divided on killing predators to reduce pet loss: 42% in support and 36% against.
  • The majority of the population (58%) supports killing predators to protect threatened or endangered species, while 18% oppose it.
  • Only 19% of the population support killing black bears to protect private forests, compared to 62% who oppose it

On July 15, the WDFW committee approved more liberal cougar hunting rules in the Blue Mountains in hopes of giving struggling elk groups more room to breathe. During the same meeting, I voted to defer consideration of a black bear hunt in the spring until after the policy governing that hunt was rewritten.

Finally, the survey asked respondents about human-wildlife conflict, and found that 19% of the population had two or more negative interactions with wild animals or birds within the past two years. The most common species that humans have struggled with? Raccoons, deer, wolves and rodents.

WFCF spokesperson Chase Gunnell said in a statement that WFCF staff are still “analyzing these findings, and we expect to incorporate the findings into both internal and external communications in the coming weeks and months.”

“This will also include consideration of a study on the attitudes of Washington fishermen that was conducted in conjunction with this survey for the broader public, which we expect to publish shortly,” he said.

Gunnell welcomed the news that a majority of Washington residents “are satisfied with the options for enjoying our state’s fish and wildlife resources, with more than a third of those fully satisfied and only 9 percent dissatisfied.”

“We are also pleased to see results showing strong participation in outdoor recreation, and that three-quarters of Washington residents generally approve of legal regulated fishing; with 44% strongly agreeing.

The fact that more people are somehow not interested in hunting should mobilize hunters and hunting organizations, said Mary Neumiller, executive director of the Spokane-based Inland Northwest Wildlife Council.

“This tells me that the fishing community needs more awareness,” she said.

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