Controversy brewing over proposed Antelope Island hunting permits

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DAVIS COUNTY -- One of the many issues legislators are talking about is the possibility of allowing limited hunting on Antelope Island. Two hunting permits for big horn sheep and two for trophy mule deer could soon be sold, bringing in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the state.

Still, the idea is definitely a controversial topic, especially because this isn't the first time this subject has been brought up. All the money for these permits would go right back to Antelope Island -- and with tight budgets, the state park could use the money -- but those against it wonder what the real cost is.

"It is one of our crown jewels, if not the crown jewel we have in Davis County," says Barbara Riddle, president of the Davis Area Visitor's Bureau. "I am frustrated that this topic keeps re-birthing itself."

What is... Antelope Island?
Antelope Island State Park, the largest of the nine islands in the Great Salt Lake, is home to a roaming herd of 500-600 bison. The 28,022-acre island is also home to Pronghorn and bighorn sheep, deer, bobcats, coyotes, many varieties of birds and waterfowl and of course antelope, which were reintroduced to the island in 1993. backcountry trails, open to horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking and cross-country skiing, provide opportunities to observe the wildlife.

The state park is a place to take photos, to watch wildlife, or just enjoy the peaceful surroundings. That's why Riddle and her organization are against hunting on the island.

"Any organization that is closely affiliated with that state park [is] adamantly against any hunting," Riddle says.

According to the 2009 draft resource management plan at Antelope Island, close to 3 out of 4 people -- 74 percent -- are opposed to hunting at Antelope Island. Of those 26 percent in favor of it, 47 percent say only if it's to control wildlife populations.

Still, legislators may soon allow two hunting permits for trophy mule deer and two for big horn sheep.

"People think we're going to be out there in orange shirts. It's not going to be that one," says Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab. "You'll be out there on your own, but with a guide. He'll show you where to go, and you can have an isolated hunt and not worry about hurting anybody else."

Noel chairs a state subcommittee that voted to support the hunt. It now goes to state legislators, and if passed, it could bring about $250,000 to Antelope Island.

"All of our state parks but maybe one are losing money and not making money," Noel says.

Even with the extra money, Davis County Commissioner Louenda Downs thinks hunting the animals would take away from the very reason why people visit the island.

"We don't want to introduce the hunting issue, even just to begin issuing permits to do that. Then will it grow? We just have grave concerns," Downs says.

A spokesperson with the Utah State Parks department released this statement: "We have to find a balance between people who love Antelope Island the way it is and possible changes that might be coming."

Ron Taylor, Antelope Island's supervisor, told KSL News if the bill does pass, he doesn't think the hunt will harm animal herds at all.


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Alex Cabrero


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