Bill Would Open Antelope Island for Deer, Bighorn Hunting

Bill Would Open Antelope Island for Deer, Bighorn Hunting

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Sen. Bill Hickman, R-St. George, proposes opening part of Antelope Island State Park for hunting of deer and bighorn sheep.

"There are quite a few trophy animals on the island that really should be harvested," Hickman said.

He said because they are not hunted, the animals have lived past their productive lives and are very big.

Hickman's bill would provide for two hunting permits each for deer and bighorn sheep, and two more permits for already-hunted bison.

The bill is supported by various sporting groups in the state and opposed by the state Division of Parks and Recreation. The policy-making parks board has rejected the idea several times in the past five years.

"It defeats the mission of the island," said Steve Roberts, deputy director for parks and recreation. "The park wasn't set up to be a private hunting preserve. It was set up for people hiking and seeing the animals."

But some who have seen would also like to shoot.

Hickman said the hunting, set from October to December, would be in the less-frequented areas of the Great Salt Lake island.

"It's not a zoo out there," Hickman said. "It wasn't ever meant or designed to be a zoo."

Don Peay, founder of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, said the fact that there is already bison hunting on the island invites hunting of other animals.

He said deer hunting should be reinstated since the mission of park is to continue the traditions of the island.

Before the state purchased the island in 1969, the land was privately owned and sometimes used to hunt deer.

Roberts said there is no biological or ecological need for deer hunting.

He said buffalo hunting is allowed because the herds increase by about 200 animals a year. Some of the animals are also sold.

But the deer herds remain stable around 150 to 200 animals, he said.

"There's no management or biological reason to hold a hunt," he said.

The bighorn sheep on the island were transplanted there and used as a nursery to breed the animals to be placed in other state parks, Roberts said.

Peay estimates $200,000 could be raised by the hunting permits and the revenue could go toward the state's effort to raise $100 million for habitat restoration and management.

The bill is to be heard before the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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