Trail Cam Ban Approved, Protections for Collared Mountain Lions Reduced (2021-02-04)
The Utah Wildlife Board voted to ban trail cameras for hunting purposes at their January 4th meeting. The Board will also explore limiting other technologies that compromise fair chase hunting practices. However, the outcome of the meeting for mountain lions was not as praiseworthy.
The original proposed timeframe of the seasonal trail camera ban was shortened by a month, in part to “Give the cougar hunters the month of January” as Randy Dearth, Vice Chair of the Board, stated during the meeting (1:07:03). This change was not surprising given the DWR’s recent move, which is backed by the Legislature, to allow unlimited lion hunting in over half of Utah’s hunting units. The claim is that this unlimited lion hunting will increase huntable deer populations, despite evidence that poor habitat quality and climate change are major factors limiting deer.
The Board also voted to remove some limitations on killing cougars that have GPS collars around their necks for research purposes. In 2021, the board prohibited killing these collared cougars to help ensure quality data collection for active cougar studies. Now, hunters can kill collared cougars as long as they are in a hunting unit that does not have an active study, despite concerns that collared cougars from active study areas will travel and disperse into areas without an active study.
Trail Cameras (2021-12-23)
Encourage the Utah Wildlife Board to limit the use of trail cameras for hunting purposes.
At their upcoming January 4th meeting, the Utah Wildlife Board will vote on a proposed rule change that would prohibit the use of trail cameras when used for hunting purposes. The rule would go into effect from July 31 to January 31 each year, covering the bulk of the hunting season. The Board will also consider prohibiting the sale or distribution of images captured on transmitting trail cameras for hunting purposes and the use of night-vision devices 48 hours before and after any big game hunts in Utah.
Before the meeting, you can support this measure by submitting comments in favor of the proposed rule change at https://wildlife.utah.gov/feedback.html. Once on the webpage, follow these steps:
- Select ‘Wildlife Board’ in the first drop-down menu
- Watch the video titled: ‘Recommended changes to Utah’s big game rule’
- Select the check box that says you have watched the video.
- Select your level of support for the rule change from strongly agree to disagree
- In your comment, say who you are, where you live, and why you care about limiting the use of trail cameras for hunting purposes.
- Scroll to the bottom of the page to fill out your contact information.
- Click ‘submit.’
While trail cameras are useful for research, using the devices to help with hunting does not represent standards of fair chase. The excessive use of these devices can compromise the privacy of other public land users, not to mention disturbing wildlife when the devices are placed, checked and removed from the field, especially around scant water sources.
Thank you for taking action on this important issue. If you are interested in attending the Utah Wildlife Board meeting to see the final ruling, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XeaH_WIUU4E on January 4th to watch the meeting live.
Hunt Recommendations (2021-08-26)
Utah Wildlife Board approves excessive 2021-22 hunt recommendations
Utah’s newly approved hunting targets for mountain lions are excessive and unsustainable, according to an analysis by conservation advocates. The Utah Wildlife Board voted Thursday to allow unlimited cougar hunting in most of the state, and to place harvest limits elsewhere. During the 2020-21 cougar hunting season, a record 702 kills by hunters and Wildlife Services were reported by the Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR).
Under the plan, 33 of the 53 cougar hunting units will allow unlimited year-round harvest and have a goal of >40% female harvest. For the remaining 20 cougar hunt units, DWR recommended that hunters be permitted to kill up to 297 cougars. The policy allows a single hunter to kill up to 2 cougars per year, but does not allow the killing of cougars that have been collared by researchers statewide.
Hunt Recommendations (2021-07-14)
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has released their cougar hunt recommendations for the upcoming season. If you live in Utah, please attend one of the Regional Advisory Council (RAC) or Wildlife Board meetings to give your feedback on their recommendations. You can also submit written comment to each of the RACs or Wildlife Board. The deadlines for comment and meeting schedule are posted below.
We will be sending out more information regarding DWR’s cougar hunt recommendations soon.
RAC and Wildlife Board meeting schedule:
Central Utah RAC meeting: July 27 at 6 p.m. MDT (Public comments must be submitted by July 22 at 11:59 p.m. MDT)
Northern Utah RAC meeting: July 28 at 6 p.m MDT (Public comments must be submitted by July 23 at 11:59 p.m. MDT)
Southern Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. MDT (Public comments must be submitted by July 29 at 11:59 p.m. MDT)
Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 4 at 6:30 p.m. MDT (Public comments must be submitted by July 30 at 11:59 p.m. MDT)
Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Aug. 5 at 6:30 p.m. MDT (Public comments must be submitted by July 30 at 11:59 p.m. MDT)
Utah Wildlife Board meeting: Aug. 26 at 9 a.m. MDT (Public comments must be submitted by Aug. 19 at 11:59 p.m. MDT)
HB 125 (2020-08-01):
UDWR’s statewide population estimates have ranged from 2,500 to 4,000 cougars. Currently, biologists with UDWR estimate that there are around 2,700 adult cougars. However, density estimates from leading cougar researchers indicate a population of roughly 1,600 cougars is likely more realistic. Without a trusted population estimate, it is unclear how much longer Utah’s cougars can withstand the current level of persecution.
To make matters worse, mountain lions are be blamed for declines in mule deer populations. While science indicates deer declines are largely due to habitat issues and diseases from domestic animals, killing predators continues to be the preferred course of action. Additionally, a study released in March 2019, suggests that targeting mountain lions to boost mule deer populations may have the opposite effect.
On March 2, 2020, House Bill (HB) 125, sponsored by Carl Albrecht, was signed into law by Governor Gary Herbert. HB125 amended the Utah State Code to require the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to aggressively remove (kill or have hunters kill) cougars, bears, bobcats and coyotes whenever deer and elk herds are “below objective,” – that is, when they are not as large as UDWR and certain hunter groups desire.
In August, 2020, the Utah Wildlife Board approved recommendations put forth by DWR that allows hunters to kill up to two mountain lions each, increased the number of unlimited quota units and tacked on an additional 27 permits in hunt units with quotas, and added a spot-and-stalk season that allows hunters to kill lions starting in August rather than November. This decision was made despite an overwhelming number of comments (approximately 86%) that were opposed to the recommendations.
Utah’s cougar management is quickly becoming one of the worst in the western states where they still exist, second only to Texas. If you live in Utah, we need your help! Be sure to watch this page for alerts.
Visit our volunteer page to sign up to get involved in Utah!