July 27, 2020

House Bill 125 Hits the Ground Running in Utah – Changes to Cougar Management Expected to Help Big Game Reach Population Level Objective

Contact: Ellary TuckerWilliams, Inter-Mountain Western States Coordinator

During the 2020 session earlier this year, Governors Sportsmen’s Caucus member, Governor Herbert of Utah signed into law House Bill 125 (HB 125). Due to growing population of predators and their increasing impact on big game populations within the state, HB 125 prioritizes healthy populations of big game animals by directing the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) to take immediate action to reduce the number of predators within a management unit, if it is determined that the big game population is under the established herd size management objective, due to an overpopulation of predators. Immediate action includes a variety of management tools such as increasing the number of permits or tags for cougar and bear and allowing big game hunters to harvest predators with appropriate permits during the big game season.

Under this new legislative directive and consistent with recently acquired population data, the DWR plans to implement predator management plans in hunting units across the state where GPS collar data is showing that predators are preventing the growth of big game populations in areas that are under the established herd size management objective. As a direct result, 25 cougar hunting units that coincide with predator management plans will be open for unlimited year-round harvest. Changes to cougar hunting season includes a new fall spot and stock season, which will be implemented on a year-by-year basis, as needed to decrease cougar population densities and allow big game populations to reach objective.

“Our goal is to maintain a healthy cougar population within the current distribution of the species across Utah, while also considering human and livestock safety, and declines in populations of big game species that cougars prey on,” said DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois. “As part of this, we factor in a proportion of older age animals, breeding females and healthy cougars in the population.”

Contrastingly, DWR biologists are recommending shortening the bobcat trapping season and reducing the number of permits per individual trapper from 5 to 4, due to the most recent data indicating a declining population.

For further information, please visit the news article recently published by DWR.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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