Last season, the number of permits issued gave hunters a chance to take 758 black bears in the state. For the upcoming season, DWR biologists are recommending that 860 permits be issued to take black bears in Utah. Every hunter won’t take a bear, so the number of bears taken would actually be much lower than 860. Biologists say issuing 860 permits would likely result in about 400 bears being taken. In 2017, allowing hunters to take 758 bears resulted in 365 bears being taken.
You can see all of the biologists’ bear hunting recommendations at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings.
After reviewing the ideas, people can let Regional Advisory Council (RAC) members know their thoughts by attending an upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an email to them.
RAC chairs will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board — a panel of seven citizens appointed by the governor — will meet in Salt Lake City on Jan. 11, 2018 to approve rules for Utah’s black bear hunting season.
The Southeastern Region RAC meeting will be held Dec. 13 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum, located at 1765 East Main Street in Green River. People can also provide comments to their RAC representative via email. Email addresses for RAC members are available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/rac-members.html.
The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person’s email address. People can direct email to those on the RAC who represent their interests.
Officials say efforts to protect and manage black bears in Utah are working. Since the first Utah Black Bear Management Plan was drafted in 1998, the number of bears in Utah has increased from an estimated minimum of 1,300 adult bears in 2000 to a minimum of just fewer than 3,500 adult bears in 2016.
The numbers given do not include cubs or bears less than two years of age, so Utah’s overall bear population is actually much higher.
“The state’s bear population has been growing steadily since 1998,” said Darren DeBloois, game mammals coordinator for the DWR, “especially in the southeastern part of the state. We’d like to give additional hunters a chance to hunt them.”
In addition to helping the state meet objectives outlined in the Utah Black Bear Management Plan, hunters who take bears provide biologists with vital information.
After taking a bear, a hunter must bring the animal to a DWR biologist or a conservation officer. In addition to assessing the bear’s overall condition, the biologist or officer determines whether the animal is a male or a female. A tooth is also removed and analyzed to determine the bear’s age.
“These two simple procedures give us lots of information about how the population is doing,” DeBloois said.
Since a male bear will breed numerous females, it’s important that a bear population has plenty of females. Also, since hunters typically target older males, the number of male bears that are five years of age or older provides valuable insight into how the population is doing.
“If the number of older males hunters take holds steady or even increases—despite older males being the part of the population hunters target most—we know the overall population is doing well,” DeBloois said.
Utah’s Black Bear Management Plan provides guidelines that help ensure the state has a healthy and stable bear population. The plan says that statewide, not more than 40 percent of the bears hunters have taken over the past three years can be females. And at least 25 percent of the bears taken over the past three years must be males that are five years of age or older. From 2015 to 2017, only 31 percent of the bears taken were females. And 36 percent of the male bears taken were five years of age or older.
“The state’s bear population is doing really well,” DeBloois said. “We’re excited about that.”
Questions about the upcoming meetings can be addressed by calling the nearest DWR office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.