Utah's Bryce Canyon at sunrise/set over rocky cliffs.
 
State of Utah, photo of young mountain lion lying on rocky ledge.

MOUNTAIN LIONS IN THE STATE OF UTAH

Unlimited hunt zones and cougars blamed for mule deer declines are threatening wildlife.

Utah's Division of Wildlife Resources puts ever-increasing numbers of mountain lions in the crosshairs. The 2019-20 quota allowed hunters to kill 690 lions, but in January 2020 the state tacked on an additional 117 permits and reopened closed hunt units.

This disturbing increase is fueled by House Bill 125, which passed during the 2020 legislative session. The bill authorizes the DWR director to aggressively increase hunts on cougars and other native carnivores whenever deer and elk populations fall below certain objectives. However, numerous scientific studies show that this is a counterproductive approach.

    USE THE TABS TO THE LEFT TO EXPLORE:
  • Return to the portal page for Utah.

  • The status of Puma concolor in Utah.

  • State law and regulations affecting cougars.

  • The history of cougars in Utah.

  • Ecosystems and habitat in Utah.

  • Cougar science and research in Utah.

  • Our library of media, research and reports.

  • How you can take action to help!

SUMMARY: Cougars in the State of Utah

For more detail you can explore using the links below.

The status of Puma concolor.

Cougars have been listed as a game animal in Utah since 1967. However, management plans have been centered on killing cougars rather than valuing their role on the landscape. Hunting quotas and cougar mortality have continued to rise, despite opposition from the public.

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Cougar law in Utah.

Cougars were persecuted as vermin in Utah from the time of European settlement in 1847 until 1966. In 1967 the Utah State Legislature changed the status of cougars to that of protected wildlife, and since that time they have been considered a game species with established hunting regulations.

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The history of cougars in Utah.

Cougars have inhabited Utah, alongside humans, for more than 40,000 years. Native people memorialized the cougar in rock carvings, totems, in story and in song. As European settlement expanded in the 1840's, cougar persecution and riding the landscape of dangerous wildlife became more common.

Cougars continue to be heavily persecuted in Utah by ever-increasing sport hunting quotas, intolerance by ranchers, and habitat loss. Cougars are also falsely blamed for declines in mule deer.

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Cougar habitat in Utah.

Approximately forty percent of the state is considered cougar habitat. The adaptable felines are able to survive in most of the juniper, mesic, aspen and conifer dominated forested regions of the higher mountains and plateaus. Keep in mind that although cougars are physically capable of living in these places (based on geographical, vegetative and prey species characteristics), it does not mean they necessarily do. Fragmentation, sport hunting practices, and intolerant communities can wipe out cougars from any area.

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The science of cougars in Utah.

While the Zion study showing the critical role cougars play in maintaining balanced, healthy ecosystems may be the most notable publication out of Utah, research projects continue in other parts of the state.

Research papers under strict copyright protection may only list their abstracts on our website. But if you would like a personal copy of the full paper to read, please contact MLF.

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Take action for cougars.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources continues to approve dangerous cougar policies. Increasing sport hunting not only threatens the future of the cougar population, but such disruptions have been shown to increase conflicts with domestic animals and increase predation on rare native ungulates like mule deer and bighorn sheep. Please be a voice for our cougars and help reverse over a century of ecosystem destruction by opposing the hunt!

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Linking a Cougar Decline, Trophic Cascade, and Catastrophic Regime Shift in Zion National Park

03/26/15 Guest Commentary by William Ripple and Robert Beschta

Ripple and Beschta's work in Zion National Park was one of the first major studies to help demonstrate the importance of top predators in maintaining healthy, diverse landscapes. When the park gained popularity and more people visited, cougars were scared off. Without natural predators, mule deer over-browsed cottonwoods, causing a shift in vegetation, more erosion along stream banks, and ultimately fewer reptiles, amphibians, fish, and insects. These results, replicated in Yellowstone, have broad implications with regard to our understanding of ecosystems where large carnivores have been removed or are being recovered.

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