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SALT LAKE CITY — Due to thriving cougar populations, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing a slight increase in hunting permits for the 2017-2018 fall season.
During the 2016-2017 season, hunters were given the opportunity to harvest 531 cougars throughout Utah, and now for the upcoming season, state wildlife biologists are proposing allowing 565 cougars to be harvested.
According to the Associated Press, the Utah Wildlife Board increased the number of cougars that were hunted in the 2016-17 season as well by about 5 percent from the previous year, triggering backlash from the Humane Society of the United States, which argues the increase is unnecessary and nothing more than a way to appease trophy hunters.
The yearly cougar hunting quota ebbs and flows year by year based on research about the animal's population and data about livestock killed, Leslie McFarlane, former mammals program coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources told the Associated Press in 2016. The number of sheep and cattle killed by cougars nearly doubled in 2015, and most of the regions where the increases were approved were in the areas where the attacks occurred, McFarlane said.
In some areas of the state, hunters can get cougar permits over the counter until quotas are reached. In other areas, hunters have to apply through a drawing to get permission.
However, DWR officials said that every hunter likely won’t harvest a cougar, so the number of cougars taken would realistically be lower than the full 565. During the 2016-17 season, only 400 of the 531 allotted permits resulted in a cougar being harvested.
Biologists said the increase in permits helps manage the cougar population in the state. The Utah Cougar Management Plan provides guidelines to help ensure a stable population including guidelines that no more than 40 percent of the cougars harvested can be females and at least 15 percent of the Cougars taken must be 5 years or older.
During the 2016–2017 season, only 28 percent of the cougars taken were females, and 23 percent of the cougars taken were 5 years of age or older.
“A healthy population will have plenty of adults in it,” DWR game mammals coordinator Darren DeBloois said in a news release. “If the number of adults starts to decline, we know the overall number of cougars in the population is declining too.”
People can give their feedback about the proposal by attending the Regional Advisory Council meeting in their area or by contacting their council representative. More information about the meetings and contact information can be found on the DWR website.