DWR recommends changes to 2021–22 cougar hunts
Salt Lake City — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing a few changes to 2021–22 cougar and bobcat hunting seasons and is seeking the public's feedback on the recommendations.
As with each wildlife species in Utah, cougars are managed according to guidelines established in a management plan, which includes regulated hunting. DWR biologists make determinations and gather input from hunters, individuals who don't hunt, 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.
A law passed by the Utah Legislature in 2020 requires that the DWR director take immediate action if cougar populations are preventing big game populations from reaching their herd-management objectives. The DWR 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 harvest of cougars in an effort to decrease cougar population densities in those areas. Because cougars prey on big game species, reducing those population densities should also decrease cougars' predation rates on mule deer and bighorn sheep populations that have seen significant declines in recent years.
In compliance with the predator management law passed last year, DWR Director Rory Reynolds also 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 in order to decrease cougar population densities in certain areas of the state. Anyone interested in participating in this hunt may purchase a $30 permit online or at DWR offices and harvest a cougar without the use of dogs during this spot-and-stalk hunting season.
Proposed changes to cougar hunting
The DWR is proposing a few clarifications to current cougar hunting rules in order to simplify the current regulations. All 53 of the cougar hunting units will either have a "harvest objective" recommended — meaning a limited number of cougars can be harvested in that hunting unit — or the unit will be under a predator management plan with an unlimited harvest. 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 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 to hold the annual meetings where the cougar hunting rules for that year are finalized in December, rather than holding those meetings in July. This change will provide more time to compile data from the previous year's hunts and will combine the cougar hunting recommendations into the same meeting as the black bear hunting recommendations.
The DWR is also proposing some rule change clarifications to make things more consistent, 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. Because two of the three parameters indicated improving bobcat population numbers, 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.
The proposed season dates for the other furbearer species are:
- Beaver and mink: Sept. 18, 2021 to April 1, 2022
- Marten, badger, gray fox, kit fox, ringtail, spotted skunk and weasel: Sept. 18, 2021 to March 1, 2022
A new hybrid approach for public meetings has been approved, so all meetings can be viewed virtually or attended in person. You can view the biologists' presentations before the meetings and share your feedback about them on the DWR website. The presentations are also available on the DWR YouTube Channel, but 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.
The meetings will be held on the following dates and times:
- Central Utah RAC meeting: July 27 at 6 p.m. (The online public comment deadline is July 22 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northern Utah RAC meeting: July 28 at 6 p.m. (The online public comment deadline is July 23 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southern Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 3 at 6 p.m. (The online public comment deadline is July 29 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. (The online public comment deadline is July 30 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. (The online public comment deadline is July 30 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Utah Wildlife Board meeting: Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. (The online public comment deadline is Aug. 19 at 11:59 p.m.)