DWR recommends changes to Utah prairie dog rule, bear hunting
Salt Lake City — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is recommending a few updates to the rules regarding Utah prairie dogs — which would go into effect if they are delisted under the Endangered Species Act — as well as a few changes to bear hunting and furbearer seasons. The Division is seeking the public's feedback on the proposals.
Amendments to rule regarding Utah prairie dogs
The Utah prairie dog has been listed under the Endangered Species Act since 1973. Several things contributed to the decline of the species, but unregulated poisoning was the primary threat. Utah has three species of prairie dogs, but the Utah prairie dogs are only found in the southwestern part of the state. Extensive research, monitoring and conservation efforts by federal and state agencies and others have been in effect since 1973 to help the species recover.
In addition to other conservation efforts, the DWR does monitoring each spring to determine the population of Utah prairie dogs in Washington, Iron and Kane counties. Over each of the past three years, Utah prairie dog populations were nearly three times the number counted in 1971. Long-term data shows that the range-wide population of the Utah prairie dog has been stable or increasing over the last three decades. As a result, the DWR maintains that the Utah prairie dog should be federally delisted and removed from the Endangered Species Act.
The DWR will continue to manage prairie dogs under the Utah Prairie Dog Conservation Strategy, which will be in place for the foreseeable future with periodic reviews.
"The plan will continue to manage the population through ongoing monitoring, while also helping to address concerns and conflicts with private landowners due to possible damage," DWR Mammal Conservation Coordinator Kim Hersey said. "We are proposing to make a few changes to the current rule regarding the take of prairie dogs in situations where there are conflicts, while still maintaining a healthy population and ongoing conservation efforts. These changes would go into effect if the Utah prairie dog is delisted, and would allow for regulated control for prairie dogs that are causing damage for private landowners. We would distribute agricultural control permits through a tiered system and would allow prairie dog removal for human health and safety."
Some of those ongoing conservation efforts will include:
- Continuing to monitor how the populations are doing during annual spring counts.
- Continuing to work to prevent disease by using insecticidal dust on their burrows to kill plague-carrying fleas.
- Advancing and implementing other plague-control methods.
- Continuing to translocate Utah prairie dogs from areas where there are conflicts with private landowners onto public land in an effort to reestablish or supplement colonies, maintain genetic diversity and/or decrease disease risks.
- Requiring surveys prior to development of an area, and translocating prairie dogs from those development areas to public lands with suitable habitat.
- Working to establish prairie dog colonies on higher-elevation areas with greater precipitation so the animals aren't as impacted by drought.
- Removing predators from areas with small, vulnerable colonies.
"Working with federal, local and nonprofit partners, we feel secure that the future for the Utah prairie dog continues to be bright," Hersey said.
Utah Black Bear Management Plan and 2023 recommendations
2023 will begin the second year of a three-year recommendation cycle for black bear hunting. As a result, the DWR is not currently recommending any changes to permit numbers or harvest objectives for black bears. However, the Utah Black Bear Management Plan will expire next year, so the DWR put together a committee of various stakeholders and organizations to help make recommendations to update the management plan.
A few changes to the black bear management plan were proposed, including giving the district biologist more flexibility to take into account bear populations on surrounding hunting units.
The DWR is also recommending some rule changes regarding bear hunting, including:
- Allowing a hunter with a valid bait permit to hunt over another hunters' bait site, with written permission from the COR holder.
- Allowing the use of a single metal container (with a maximum size of 55 gallons) to be used for bait, if securely attached at the bait site.
- Prohibiting the use of chocolate or cocoa as bait, since chocolate/cocoa can have properties that can be toxic to animals.
- Requiring bait sites to comply with all DWR rules, but that the DWR will not review locations and approve them before a COR is issued.
- Eliminating the mandatory orientation course, but instead provide educational materials to permit holders with their mailed permits.
The DWR is also proposing a few changes to the season dates for using hounds for hunting bears and season dates for using bait. The DWR is proposing to eliminate the fall bait seasons so they don't overlap with hound seasons, as it's illegal to use both bait and hounds on a bear hunt. The only season that would allow bait would be the spring season, which runs from May 30 to June 30, 2023.
The DWR is also proposing to keep the bobcat permit numbers and season dates the same in 2022–23 as they were this year — allowing six permits per individual, no total permit cap, and the season running from Nov. 16, 2023 through March 1, 2024.
The proposed season dates for the other furbearer species are:
- Beaver and mink: Sept. 16, 2023 to April 1, 2024
- Marten, badger, gray fox, kit fox, ringtail, spotted skunk and weasel: Sept. 16, 2023 to March 1, 2024
The DWR is also recommending that a few areas be closed to beaver trapping to help facilitate some beaver introductions in the areas to help with habitat projects: Three Mile Creek (Garfield County) and Reservoir Canyon (Washington County).
The public meetings for the recommendations can either 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 Nov. 22 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 — online 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: Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. in the Wildlife Resources Conference Room (DWR Springville Office) at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 27 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northern Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 27 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at the DNR Richfield City Complex at 2031 Industrial Park Road in Richfield. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wildlife Resources Conference Room (DWR Vernal Office) at 318 N. Vernal Ave. in Vernal. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 1 at 11:59 p.m.)
- Utah Wildlife Board meeting: Jan. 3 at 9 a.m. at the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at 1157 S. Waterfowl Way in Farmington. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 20 at 11:59 p.m.)