SALT LAKE CITY — State wildlife officials are seeking public input on several proposals that would alter pursuit and harvesting permits in different places of the state.
The proposals are aimed at addressing concerns brought up about pursuit ethics in eastern Utah and declining deer populations in southern Utah, according to Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials.
Restricted pursuit changes
One of the agency’s proposals is to add a restricted pursuit season during the spring for the La Sal, San Juan and Book Cliffs units in eastern Utah. Pursuit permits allow a dog handler to have their dogs chase bears as a practice and are different than harvesting permits. The state would issue 75 permits for each unit in these areas, with 10% available for non-Utah residents.
The proposed changes came after various state and federal agencies agreed there were too many pursuers in the region and many weren’t even residents that led to problems, said DWR game mammals coordinator Darren DeBloois, in a recorded presentation of the proposal.
The division is also looking at a first-time cap to the number of dogs to be used to pursue or harvest bears or mountain lions during non-summer months. Permit holders would be limited to 16 dogs at one time, while keeping a limit of eight dogs during the summer restricted season would remain in place.
Another proposal seeks to clarify a pair of rules already in place. One would would clarify “a person may not pursue a single bear or mountain lion in repeated pursuits, where it could render the animal physically unable to escape”; the other would ensure “a person must make reasonable efforts to call dogs off of a bear or mountain lion after it has been cornered and held at bay,” according to the division’s proposals.
The dog limit and the rule clarifications were proposed after concerns arose about “fair chase” ethics, DeBloois said.
“Specifically, we’re concerned that, in some cases, people might be pursuing animals past the point of exhaustion, where they lose the ability to physically escape the pursuers,” he said. “We felt like we had to be more precise in the rule language.”
Black bears and deer in southern Utah
The other two proposals center around black bear harvesting in southern Utah. The division is seeking an increase of 30 spot-and-stalk permits during the fall harvest season in the Plateau and Boulder/Kaiparowits units. Those permits allow hunters to harvest bears without the aid of dogs or bait. If approved, the division would raise the total of spot-and-stalk permits allowed to 50 during the season.
In addition, the division is seeking to add five new summer bait season permits for that location, which would mean 17 permits would be available for the summer season.
DeBloois explained those changes are proposed as the state seeks to help declining deer populations in the region.
People have until 11:59 p.m. Sunday to submit their feedback about the proposed changes on the agency's website.
Otherwise, there are six scheduled opportunities to give feedback about the proposed changes in person during Utah Wildlife Board or Regional Advisory Council meetings. Those meetings are scheduled for:
- Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Springville DWR office, 1115 N. Main in Springville
- Dec. 4 at 6 p.m. at the Brigham City Community Center, 24 N. 300 West in Brigham City
- Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Cedar City Middle School, 2215 W. Royal Hunte Drive in Cedar City
- Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum, 1765 E. Main St. in Green River.
- Dec. 12 at 6:30 p.m. at the Vernal DWR office, 318 N. Vernal Ave. in Vernal.
- Jan. 7, 2020, at 9 a.m. at the Utah Department of Natural Resources building, 1594 W. North Temple in Salt Lake City.