Utah’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) recently released their proposals for the 2020-21 cougar hunting season. Once again, they are looking to increase quotas in the state, further exceeding sustainable limits established by researchers.
Last year, DWR’s Wildlife Board approved an increase in the number of permits available to hunters bringing the total to 690. Then, in January of 2020, DWR issued an emergency order that reopened closed hunt units and tacked on an additional 117 permits for cougars. The aim: boost struggling deer populations. Utah’s House Bill 125, which passed during the 2020 legislative session, authorizes DWR director to take immediate action, under certain conditions, when a big game population is under the established herd-size objective to aggressively remove cougars, bears, bobcats and coyotes whenever deer and elk herds are "below objective." Yet, researchers are finding that such strategies might very well be counterproductive.
One study, published in 2019, found that targeting mountain lions to boost mule deer numbers might actually backfire, ultimately exacerbating the issue by changing the age-structure of cougar populations to predominantly younger animals that are more likely to hunt deer over elk.
Another goal of DWR’s is to reduce conflicts with cougars. However, this mission is also not supported by science. One study, of many, concluded that, “... hunting of predators remains a common management strategy aimed at reducing predator-human conflict. Emerging theory and data, however, caution that such policy can alter the age structure of populations, triggering increased conflict in which conflict-prone juveniles are involved.”
Despite current science that does not support hunting as an effective management tool, DWR has proposed an additional 27 permits in hunting units that aren’t implementing predator management plans. But that’s not all. They are also recommending increasing the harvest limit from one to two cougars per hunter from July 1 to June 30 the following year. Additionally, cougar hunt units that have predator management plans, a total of 25 across the state, will be open for unlimited year-round harvest.
If you live in Utah, we need you to send in your feedback for the Regional Advisory Council (RAC) meetings, as well as the Wildlife Board meeting in August. The public comment period for each of the RACs and the Wildlife Board meetings opened on July 13, 2020. The deadlines for comment by RAC and Wildlife Board are outlined below:
The virtual meetings will be held on the following dates and times:
While members of the public can watch a livestream of each of the RAC meetings and the Utah Wildlife Board meeting, public comments will not be accepted during these electronic meetings.
To submit your feedback on the Division's recommendations, visit DWR’s website, select your region or the Utah Wildlife Board from the drop down menu, then under item 2. 2020-21 cougar recommendations, select that you oppose the proposals and add your comments. Be sure to be specific in what you are asking the DWR to do in order to have the most impact. Note: The Division will be taking tally of “For” or “Against” comments.