Quotas raised or increased for cougar hunting in Utah
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Department of Wildlife recently updated hunting restrictions for cougars in the state. In order to protect vulnerable big game populations, there is no longer a cougar hunting quota in some areas of Utah.
Cougars Become Unlimited Hunting Game In Utah
The Wildlife Board has approved a plan to increase quotas in many hunting areas and completely lift quotas on cougars in others. Additionally, authorities are making cougars year round in hopes of increasing the numbers of mule deer and bighorn sheep.
DWR must take action
The push to increase cougar harvests came from the Utah Legislature, not Utah’s wildlife agencies. In 2020, lawmakers passed HB125, which requires DWR to reduce predator populations in hunting areas where big game populations are not meeting population targets.
Game Mammals Program Coordinator for DWR, Darren DeBloois, explained that due to legislative changes, the state is demanding UDWR action in predator control. “[The Utah State Legislative changes] demands that the director of the division take immediate action to reduce predators when two things happen, ”DeBloois said in the 2021-2022 cougar recommendations video.
“When big game populations are below management plan targets and when they can determine that predators are contributing to the decline of big game populations,” DeBloois said.
The council asked for more information at its meeting on why cougar hunting should be a year-round sport. To which DeBloois said: “Our goal is to maintain a healthy cougar population within the species’ current distribution in Utah, while taking into account human safety, damage to livestock ranchers and declining populations of big game species that cougars prey on. “
One participant, Kirk Robinson, founder and director of Western Wildlife Conservancy, argued that there was little to no scientific evidence that this was true.
“Perpetual war on the cougars”
“I’ve never heard of anyone come up with a science that justifies killing so many cougars,” Robinson told the board. “The carnivore numbers will follow the ungulate prey numbers if you let them. Of course there is going to be a bit of a delay, but it can be done. Instead, it looks like we are in a perpetual war with the cougars. “
Robinson claimed that the evidence the board received from DeBloois was not factual evidence. “Don’t tell me it’s all science based when you can’t cite any published, peer-reviewed study to back it up,” Robinson said.
Several speakers at the meeting noted that the decline in big game populations is not due to cougars alone. Adrian Brown cited a study published by Dr John Laundré and Dr Christopher M. Papouchis in 2020 as saying: “Deer populations in the state where cougars are not hunted show no significant differences in density and density. abundance relative to deer populations in the state. that allow cougar hunting.
“Instead of targeting cougars and other predators to stimulate big game species, we need to tackle climate issues such as droughts, wildfires and habitat loss caused by urban expansion,” said Brown.
However, for people like Garrett Call, representing the Utah Farm Bureau, cougars can harm their livestock. “These cougars can be very damaging to our livestock industry, especially the sheep industry,” Call said.
Sierra Nelson, representing the Utah Wool Growers Association, endorsed the recommendation that cougars be managed in Utah. “Ultimately, if there is a predatory cougar, it has to be removed.”
“For every time you’ve seen a lion running majestically in a field, you’ve never seen it sit there and tear up something. Not just an animal, but your livelihood, ”concluded Nelson.
Wildlife Council votes to increase and lift quotas on cougars
DeBloois explained in his Cougar Recommendations video, the cougar hunting program has guard rails to ensure animals are not unnecessarily killed.
“Predation must be a key factor preventing the growth of prey populations. Second, deer populations must have abundant quality habitat, which biologists call carrying capacity, ”DeBloois said. “Third, control efforts to reduce predator populations must be sufficient to yield results, so they must be aggressive and we must eliminate a significant number of predators in the region in order to see results. These efforts must be concentrated on geographic areas.
The Wildlife Board has decided that predator management plans are needed in 33 of Utah’s 53 hunting areas. In these hunting areas there is no limit on the number of cougars that can be killed and the season is year round. However, individual hunters are allowed to kill a maximum of two cougars per year.
The Wildlife Council voted unanimously to approve this motion.