Utah Wildlife Board votes to restrict trail camera use, makes other changes to black bear and cougar hunting
Salt Lake City — The Utah Wildlife Board voted to restrict the use of trail cameras and other hunting-related technologies and also approved some changes to black bear and cougar hunting in the state, as well as a few other items during a public meeting Tuesday.
Changes to trail cameras and other technology used in hunting
The Utah Legislature passed HB 295 during the 2021 legislative session, and it went into effect May 5, 2021. This new law instructed the Utah Wildlife Board to make some rules governing the use of trail cameras in hunting. As a result, the DWR conducted two separate surveys, which went out to more than 14,000 big game hunters and requested their feedback on potential proposals for the wildlife board. The survey results showed that the majority of the public opposed using transmitting trail cameras for hunting (cameras that transmit images and footage in real time).
The wildlife board voted to prohibit all trail cameras (including both non-handheld transmitting and non-transmitting devices) in the take or to aid in the take of big game between July 31 and Dec. 31. A trail camera is defined as a device that is not held or manually operated by a person and is used to capture images, video or location data of wildlife and uses heat or motion to trigger the device. This new rule does not apply to government or educational organizations gathering wildlife information, private landowners who are monitoring their property for trespass or active agricultural operations, or to cities involved in the Urban Deer Program. However, trail cameras on private property cannot be used to help in the take of big game between July 31 and Dec 31.
The board also voted to prohibit the sale or purchase of trail camera footage or data to take, attempt to take, or aid in the take or attempted take of big game animals. That includes images, location information, time and date of the footage and any other data that could aid in the take or attempted take of big game.
Another approved change will prohibit using any night-vision device to locate or attempt to locate a big game animal. This will go into effect starting 48 hours before any big game hunt opens in an area and will remain in place until 48 hours after the big game hunt ends in the area. A night-vision device is defined as anything that enhances visible and non-visible light and includes the use of night-vision devices, thermal-imaging devices, infrared-imaged devices and other electronic devices that enhance the visible and non-visible light spectrum. This type of technology has increased in popularity and use in hunting in recent years.
The same rule and restrictions on the use of trail cameras and night-vision devices will also be applied to the rules regarding cougar and bear hunting in Utah. However, agricultural producers will still be able to use trail cameras to aid in the removal of cougars or bears that are preying on livestock.
The board also voted to have the DWR create a committee of various stakeholders to consider additional regulations on the use of other hunting-related technologies.
Other big game hunting changes
A few additional changes were approved for some big game hunts, including:
- Allowing an individual to apply for and hunt the following species in the same year: doe and buck pronghorn, cow and bull moose, and ewe and ram bighorn sheep. This would help streamline the hunt drawing process and is one of the necessary changes to allow the proposed permit numbers to be available during the drawing.
- Requiring bison hunters to review educational information about shot placement for hunting bison prior to the hunt. The Utah Wildlife Board requested this change to provide more education to bison hunters.
- Not requiring hunter orange during the general-season any bull archery hunt that overlaps with the general-season any bull youth hunt. The youth would still be required to wear hunter orange during their hunt.
- Clarifying that the handgun-archery-muzzleloader-shotgun permits are not valid on extended archery hunts.
- Clarifying that both the powder and bullet must be loaded from the muzzle with a muzzleloader.
- Stating that the national wildlife refuges in Utah are closed to hunting unless they are declared open to hunting by the managing authority.
- Clarifying that antlerless elk-control permits must be used on an antlerless-elk control hunting unit and cannot be used on a Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit.
These changes will be in effect for the 2022 hunting seasons.
Cougar hunting changes
During the Utah Wildlife Board meeting in August, the cougar hunting permit numbers were approved for the next three-year management cycle. The board also approved changing the schedule for when the annual cougar hunting rules are presented and finalized, which moved the recommendation cycle to December, rather than July. This change provides more time to compile data from the previous year's hunts, and it also combines the cougar hunting recommendations into the same meeting as the black bear hunting recommendations. This means that hunters will have the opportunity to apply for both black bear and cougar hunts in February 2022.
The season dates will remain consistent with the 2021–22 season dates adjusted for the calendar year. The board also voted to allow the harvest of collared cougars outside of an active study area beginning July 1, 2022. The areas where the harvest of collared cougars will not be allowed will be included in the 2022–23 Utah Cougar Guidebook.
Black bear hunting changes
The wildlife board also approved the black bear permit numbers for the next three-year cycle, which begins in 2022. A few other changes were approved for black bear hunting, including:
- Allowing for online bait station registration.
- Removing the harvest-objective hotline — which is now discontinued — and requiring hunters to check for unit closures on the cougar harvest or bear harvest pages on the DWR website.
The board also voted to have a bear committee — composed of DWR employees, Utah Wildlife Board members, conservation group representatives, bear hunters and other stakeholders — review the current Utah Black Bear Management Plan and address how the DWR will manage bears in Utah beginning in 2024.
The board also voted to keep the bobcat permit numbers and season dates the same in 2022–23 as they were last year — allowing up to six permits per individual, with no total permit cap. The season will run from Nov. 17, 2022 through March 1, 2023.
The approved season dates for the other furbearer species are:
- Beaver and mink: Sept. 17, 2022 to April 1, 2023
- Marten, badger, gray fox, kit fox, ringtail, spotted skunk and weasel: Sept. 17, 2022 to March 1, 2023
The wildlife board also voted to have the DWR assess the allocation of some additional youth permits for buck deer that are two-points or smaller.
You can watch the full board meeting on the DNR YouTube channel.