DWR: Increase cougar hunting permits

Cougars are doing well in Utah, according to wildlife officials. So well, in fact, that a few more hunters might be allowed to hunt them this fall, according a Division of Wildlife Resources press release.

This past season, hunters were given the opportunity to kill 581 cougars in the state. For the upcoming season, biologists with the DWR are recommending that hunters be allowed to take 653. The number of cougars taken will actually be lower than 653, though. For example, 456 cougars were killed this past season, even though hunters were allowed to take 581.

“Cougars are tough to hunt,” says Darren DeBloois, game mammals coordinator for the DWR. “Not every hunter who gets a permit will take one.”

Bobcat recommendations, for Utah’s upcoming season, will also be discussed at an upcoming series of public meetings. Starting July 16, all of the biologists’ cougar and bobcat hunting recommendations became available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/public_meetings, according to the DWR press release. After the public has been able to review the ideas, people can let their regional advisory council members know their thoughts by attending an upcoming RAC meeting or by sending an email to them. “RAC chairmen will share the input they receive with members of the Utah Wildlife Board. The board will meet in Salt Lake City on Aug. 30 to approve cougar and bobcat hunting recommendations for Utah’s 2018 – 2019 seasons,” said the press release.

For the southeastern region, there will be a meeting Aug. 1 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum in Green River.

DeBloois says Utah’s cougar population is doing well, with lots of the big cats found across the state. He appreciates the role cougar hunters play, both in helping to protect deer, bighorn sheep and livestock from cougars and providing wildlife biologists with information that helps them manage the population.

DeBloois says those who take a cougar must bring the animal to a DWR biologist or a conservation officer. “The first thing we do is examine the animal to see if it’s a male or a female,” he says. “Next, we determine the animal’s age by removing and analyzing one of its teeth.”

DeBloois says the number of females and the number of adults in a cougar population are the key factors in keeping the population healthy and strong.

“A male cougar will breed with several females,” he says, “so keeping plenty of females in the population is important. The number of adults is also important. A healthy population will have plenty of adults. If the number of adults starts to decline, we know the overall number of cougars in the population is declining too.”

Utah’s Cougar Management Plan provides guidelines that help ensure the state has a healthy and stable cougar population, officials say. The two major guidelines are the number of female cougars hunters take—compared to the number of males—and the number of cougars taken that are five years of age or older.

The plan says not more than 40 percent of the cougars hunters take can be females. And at least 15 percent of the cougars taken must be five years of age or older. During the 2017 – 2018 season, only 32 percent of the cougars taken were females. And 16 percent of the cougars killed were five years of age or older.

“Utah’s cougar population has plenty of females in it,” DeBloois says, “and plenty of adults too. For those reasons, we’re recommending a slight permit increase for the 2018 – 2019 season.”