Wednesday, August 2, 2017
By Lisa Lakey
Utah hunters could see an increase in opportunities to hunt cougars this fall if the Utah Wildlife Board approves the most recent recommendations.
With the population of the big cats thriving in the state, biologists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources have recommended increasing the number of cougar hunting permits to be increased to 565. For the 2016-17 hunting season, 531 cougars were allowed to be taken.
“Utah’s cougar population has plenty of females in it and plenty of adults too,” Darren DeBloois, game mammals coordinator for the Utah Department of Natural Resources said. “For those reasons, we’re recommending a slight permit increase for the 2017-2018 season.”
Utah’s Cougar Management Plan currently requires no more than 40 percent of the cougars taken to be female, with at least 15 percent five years of age or older. Two components DeBloois said are important to keep Utah’s cougar population healthy and strong.
“A male cougar will breed with several females,” DeBloois said, “so keeping plenty of females in the population is important. The number of adults is also important. A healthy population will have plenty of adults in it. If the number of adults starts to decline, we know the overall number of cougars in the population is declining too.”
As elusive as the species can be, it’s unlikely the number of permits allowed will match the actual kill count. During the 2016-17 season, only 400 of the allowed 531 were taken. Of those, 28 percent were females and 23 percent five years of age or older. The previous season, hunters killed 371 of the 495 permits released.
According to biologists, hunting cougars for species management helps protect deer, bighorn sheep and livestock. Hunters also provide biologists with valuable information. DeBloois said hunters are required to bring the animal to either a Utah conservation officer or a DWR biologist to determine the sex and age of the animal.
Regional Advisory Council members for the Utah Wildlife Board have five upcoming meetings scheduled through August 3 to discuss the recommendations with the public and allow for comments. Final decisions on both cougar and bobcat hunting for the 2017-2018 season will be made on Aug. 31 at the board meeting in Salt Lake City.
More information on recommendations for the seasons, as well as dates for public comment, can be found here.