SALT LAKE CITY — Cougar populations are preventing big game populations from reaching their herd-management objectives causing the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to propose minor changes to 2021-22 cougar and bobcat hunting seasons.
The DWR will hold public meetings to seek the public’s feedback on their recommendations.
DWR biologists gathered information from hunters, non-hunters and livestock producers who sometimes have sheep killed by cougars. The plan is then finalized and approved by the Utah Wildlife Board. The current management plan was established in 2015 and expires in 2025.
Rory Reynolds DWR’s interim director has implemented predator management plans for 33 of the 53 designated cougar hunting units in Utah — two of the 33 units were added in July. The hunting units with predator management plans are open for unlimited year-round harvesting of cougars to decrease cougar population densities in those areas.
Cougars prey on big game species, reducing population densities of mule deer and bighorn sheep populations that have seen significant declines in recent years.
In compliance with the predator management law passed last year, Reynolds opened a fall spot-and-stalk hunting season for cougars, which will run from Aug. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021. This hunt has been authorized to continue annually to decrease cougar population densities in certain areas of the state.
Interested hunters may purchase a $30 permit online or at DWR offices. Cougar must be harvested without the use of dogs during this spot-and-stalk hunting season.
Proposed changes to cougar hunting
For the 20 units with harvest objectives, the DWR is recommending limited-entry seasons on designated units, with a drawing for the limited number of cougar permits. The number of permits available through the drawing process will be equal to the harvest objective for that unit.
“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,” DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said. “As part of this, we factor in a proportion of older animals, breeding females and healthy cougars in the population.”
The DWR is also recommending the annual meetings where the cougar hunting rules for that year are finalized is in December, rather than July. This change will provide more time to compile data and will combine the cougar hunting recommendations into the same meeting as the black bear hunting recommendations.
The DWR is also proposing a more consistent process, including allowing cougar hunters to use any weapon that can be used to hunt and harvest big game animals.
Bobcat hunting recommendations
Utah’s bobcat management plan includes three categories for maintaining a healthy population: the number of juvenile bobcats harvested each year, the number of females harvested and a target survival rate for adults. DWR biologists are recommending some slight increases in permits for this year.
The proposal includes increasing the number of permits to six per person and lifting the permit cap. The DWR is also proposing to add an extra week to the beginning of the bobcat trapping season. The proposed season would run from Nov. 18, 2021 to March 1, 2022.
All meetings can be viewed virtually or be attended in person. You can view the biologists’ presentations before the meetings and share your feedback about them on the DWR website or YouTube Channel. Comments can only be submitted through the forms on the DWR website.
The public comment period opened on July 13 for each of the five Regional Advisory Council meetings and for the Utah Wildlife Board meeting. Public comments submitted within the online-comment timeframes listed below will be shared with the RAC and wildlife board members at each respective meeting. Members of the public can choose to either watch the meetings online or attend them in person. If you wish to comment during the meeting, you should attend in person — electronic comments will only be accepted until the deadlines listed below.
For Northern Utah the meeting will be held on July 28 at 6 pm. The online public comment time is July 23. The Utah Wildlife board meeting will be held Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. and the online public comment time is Aug. 19 at 11:59 p.m.