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Self Defense Against Wild Animals

The Department of Fish & Wildlife is authorized to classify wildlife as game, as endangered or protected species, or as a predatory bird consistent with RCW 77.08.010 and 77.12.020. The commission is also authorized, pursuant to RCW 77.36.030, to establish the limitations and conditions on killing or trapping wildlife that is threatening human safety.

 The conditions for killing wildlife vary, based primarily on the classification of the wildlife species and the imminent nature of the threat to personal safety. Additional conditions defined by the department may also be important, depending on individual situations. Killing wildlife for personal safety is subject to all other state and federal laws including, but not limited to, Titles 77 RCW and 220 WAC.

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Killing Wildlife for Personal Safety.

A person may kill a wild animal when:

1.  The wild animal is in the physical act of attacking a person, or; 

2.  The wild animal is posing an immediate threat of physical harm to a person.

Killing Wildlife to Protect Property. WAC 220-440-060.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife is authorized to classify wildlife as game, and/or as endangered species or protected wildlife, and/or as a predatory bird consistent with RCW 77.08.010 and 77.12.020. The commission is also authorized, pursuant to RCW 77.36.030, to establish the limitations and conditions on killing or trapping wildlife that is causing damage on private property. Fish & Wildlife may authorize, pursuant to RCW 77.12.240 the killing of wildlife destroying or injuring property.

The conditions for killing wildlife vary, based primarily on the classification of the wildlife species, the imminent nature of the threat to damage private property, the type of private property damage, and what other non-lethal methods may exist to protect the property.  Additional conditions defined by the Department may also be important, depending on individual situations.  Killing wildlife to address private property damage is subject to all other state and federal laws including, but not limited to, RCW 77 and WAC 220.

Killing Protected Wildlife or Endangered Species.

It is unlawful to kill protected wildlife or endangered species (as defined in RCW 77.08.010) unless authorized by commission rule or with a permit from the Department, with the following additional requirements:

1.  All federally listed threatened or endangered species will require federal permits or federal authority, in addition to the state permit.

2.  All migratory birds are federally protected and will likely require a federal permit or federal authority, in addition to the state permit.

Killing Wildlife Causing Damage to a Commercial Crop or Livestock. 

It is permissible to kill unclassified wildlife, predatory birds, and game animals that are in the act of damaging commercial crops or attacking livestock or other domestic animals, under the following conditions:

Predatory birds (defined in RCW 77.08.010) and unclassified wildlife that are in the act of damaging commercial crops or attacking livestock or other domestic animals may be killed with the express permission of the crop, livestock, domestic animals, or property owner at any time on private property, to protect domestic animals, livestock, or commercial crops.

If an owner has attempted nonlethal damage control techniques and acquires verbal or written approval from the Department, they may kill an individual (one) deer or elk during the physical act of damaging commercial crops within a twelve-month period. The owner must notify the Department within 24 hours of kill.  

Multiple deer or elk may be killed if they are in the act of damaging commercial crops if the owner, owner's immediate family member, agent of the owner, or owner's documented employee is issued damage prevention or kill permits and the owner has a valid, written damage prevention cooperative agreement with the Department.

An owner may kill an individual (one) black bear or cougar during the physical act of attacking livestock or domestic animals with or without an agreement or permit within a 12-month period. The owner must notify the department within 24 hours of kill.

Killing Wildlife Causing Damage or Killing Wildlife to Prevent Private Property Damage.

Predatory birds (as defined in RCW 77.08.010(39)), unclassified wildlife, and eastern gray squirrels may be killed by the owner of private property, owner's immediate family, agent of the owner, or the owner's documented employee with the express permission of the private real property owner at any time, to prevent private property damage on private real property.

The following list of wildlife species may be killed by the owner of the property, owner's immediate family member, agent of the owner, owner's documented employee, or licensed hunters/trappers in a lawful manner with the express permission of the private real property owner, when causing damage to private property: Raccoon, fox, bobcat, beaver, muskrat, mink, river otter, weasel, hare, and cottontail rabbits.

Other Information.

The Department of Fish & Wildlife may make agreements with landowners to prevent private property damage by wildlife. The agreements may authorize permits to remove animal(s) to abate private property damage.

Landowners are encouraged to allow general season hunting and trapping on their property to help minimize damage potential and concerns.

 Wildlife control operators may assist property owners under the conditions of their certification or permits to remove animals causing damage.

Tribal members may assist property owners under the conditions of valid co-management agreements between tribes and the department.  Tribes must be in compliance with the agreements including, but not limited to, adhering to reporting requirements, possession, and harvest restrictions.

Hunting licenses and/or associated tags are usually not required to kill wildlife under these laws.  Hunters and trappers participating in harvesting wildlife must ALWAYS comply with provisions of each permit. 

If you have any more questions about protecting yourself, your family or your property from wildlife, contact us today.  [email protected]  

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