As mentioned in our Action Alert "Tell Utah DWR: Don't increase the quota!", the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has recommended increasing the hunting quota for the upcoming 2018-19 mountain lion hunting season. On Thursday, August 30, the Utah Wildlife Board met to discuss these recommendations. The Wildlife Board approved the UDWR's proposal, with a few minor adjustments to specific parts of the proclamation. These modifications included separating the Oquirrh-Stansbury hunt unit into two units and making the first a "limited entry" unit and the second a "harvest objective" unit. Additionally, instead of increasing the quota by 72 permits, the Wildlife Board approved an increase of 61.
The new quota will increase the number of permits available to hunters up from 581 for the 2017-18 season to 642 for the 2018-2019 hunting season. While the UDWR believes that it is unlikely that the quota will even be met, the increase sets an unsustainable precedence for years to come.
As of 2017, UDWR's biologists estimated that there were between 1900 - 4000 mountain lions in Utah, with a current estimate of around 2000 individuals. During the 2017-2018 hunt, trophy hunters were reported to have killed 456 lions. According to the UDWR, in the past three years, hunters have killed a total of 1234 mountain lions: 859 males and 374 females.
Studies and surveys have shown that a significant percentage of Utahns do not support trophy hunting of the state's wild cats. Yet, seldom are these considerations factored into hunting decisions.
Continued overhunting of mountain lions can lead to population decline, instability and decline in overall ecosystem health, increased overgrazing by deer and elk, an increase in conflicts with humans and decreased kitten survival which leads to further population decline.
Contrary to popular belief, the killing of lions has been shown to potentially increase conflicts for ranchers and pet owners as it disrupts natural population dynamics. When a dominant male is removed from his territory, dispersing subadults may immigrate to occupy the previous male's territory. These younger cats may be more likely to prey upon livestock and pets, leading to an avoidable increase in wildlife-livestock conflict.