Cougar harvest objectives increased in emergency change to help struggling deer populations

SALT LAKE CITY — Cougar harvest objectives were increased in an emergency change on Thursday, Jan. 16, in an effort to help struggling deer populations in several areas of Utah.

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A cougar in Utah.

Cougar harvest objectives were increased in an emergency change on Thursday, Jan. 16, in an effort to help struggling deer populations in several areas of Utah.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Director Mike Fowlks issued the emergency change to the 2019–2020 Utah Cougar Guidebook to allow for more harvest of cougars, which are the main predator of mule deer in Utah.

"Cougar populations have grown along with mule deer populations over the last decade," DWR game mammals coordinator Darren DeBloois said. "Cougar populations don't immediately decline when deer populations do, and in some cases, cougar populations may be maintained by switching to different types of prey. Deer populations in some areas of Utah, however, have declined due to drought and heavy winter conditions over the past two years. In circumstances like these, mule deer populations can sometimes struggle to grow and recover."

The majority of the units receiving increases are "harvest-objective," meaning that once the quota for that area is filled, the hunt will close. As part of the emergency change, the total cougar harvest objective for 11 hunting units around the state where deer populations are struggling will be increased by 117.

"The units with emergency permit changes have exhibited deer population declines of 15% or greater and have either already filled their harvest objective for cougar or are expected to, based upon previous harvest success," DeBloois said. "Reductions in cougar populations on these units and at these levels can facilitate mule deer herd recovery while providing sustainable management of both predator and prey populations."

The change for increasing the cougar permits went into effect Thursday. All the other rules in the Utah Cougar Guidebook have not changed and remain in effect.

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