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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s wildlife director added a new cougar hunting period, and state wildlife biologists are seeking to add more than two dozen new cougar hunting permits for the regular hunting season in certain parts of Utah.
Some of the adjustments are a result of a law passed by state legislators earlier this year. The law change allows a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources director to directly take steps to reduce predator populations when big game populations dip below the state’s management objectives.
Mike Fowlks, the division’s director, said Wednesday that a new spot-and-stalk hunting season is now added to the state’s hunting opportunities for the animal. It will begin Aug. 1 and run through the end of the year and be implemented on a year-by-year basis. A permit is $30. The regular cougar hunting season traditionally begins in November, according to the DWR guidebook.
He also added predator management plans for parts of the state where cougars are threatening objectives for other wildlife set up in an effort to reduce predator numbers in those sections. In areas selected, hunting for a predator can remain open year-round with no quota on the predator being harvested, said DWR game mammals program coordinator Darren DeBloois, in a video about changes to cougar hunting either enacted or proposed.
Predator management plans to protect mule deer were issued for these hunting units:
- Book Cliffs-East
- Central Mountains-Northeast, Northwest, Southeast and Southwest Manti
- Plateau-Thousand Lakes
- San Juan-Mountains
- South Slope-Yellowstone
- Southwest Desert
Predator management plans to protect bighorn sheep were issued for:
- Central Mountains/Nebo-West Face
- Fillmore, Oak Creek
- Fillmore, Pahvant
- Henry Mountains
- La Sal
- Nine Mile-North
- North Slope-Summit/West Daggett
- North Slope-Three Corners
- Pine Valley-South
- Wasatch Mountains-Avintaquin/Currant Creek
- Wasatch Mountains-Cascade
- Wasatch Mountains-Timpanogos
The areas selected might have a disproportionate number of predators to deer or other wildlife in those areas of other wildlife struggles to maintain healthy populations in those areas.
“It’s important to think about predators in relation to their prey base because we might think of a prey species like a mule deer with regards to its habitat needs — the availability of feed in the landscape,” DeBloois explained.
In addition to the changes enacted by Fowlks, DWR biologists proposed for 27 new cougar hunting permits to be issued for areas of the state without predator management plans. About 550 cougars were harvested over the past year, according to the agency’s data.
Other proposed changes include adjustment to an administrative rule on taking cougars. If passed, hunters would be able to harvest two cougars instead of one between now and June 30, 2021.
“We’re seeing a lot of units where we’re not able to meet our harvest quota for those units and so this would give a person the opportunity on those units to take a second lion and try and meet our management objectives,” he said. “We also have a relatively high mountain lion population in this state, according to our models and this opportunity exists.”
Another change clarifies when hunters can harvest a cougar with a GPS tracking collar on. Hunting an animal with a collar on is legal but discouraged. The proposed adjustment would list units where hunting a collared cougar is legal or illegal. There’s also a proposal to not require cougar hunters to wear hunter orange during center rifle hunts.
State biologists are also seeking to reduce the number of permits for bobcat trapping from five permits to four and shorten the season from Nov. 25 to March 1, 2021; the total number of bobcat permits issued would remain 6,460 under the proposal.
People have time to submit comments on the proposals to the state wildlife leaders through the DWR website. There are also a handful of online Regional Advisory Council meetings before the Utah Wildlife Board is set to decide on the measures in August.
Meetings for the proposals are:
- Central Utah RAC meeting - 6 p.m. on July 28 (Public comment deadline is 11:59 p.m. July 22)
- Northern Utah RAC meeting - 6 p.m. on July 29 (Public comment deadline is 11:59 p.m. July 22)
- Southern Utah RAC meeting - 7 p.m. on Aug. 4 (Public comment deadline is 11:59 p.m. July 30)
- Southeastern Utah RAC meeting - 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 5 (Public comment deadline is 11:59 p.m. July 30)
- Northeastern Utah RAC meeting - 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 6 (Public comment deadline is 11:59 p.m. July 30)
- Utah Wildlife Board meeting - 9 a.m. on Aug. 27 (Public comment deadline is 11:59 p.m. Aug. 20)