Group calls for Cox to veto Utah bill that opens door for year-round cougar hunting

Mar 8, 2023, 10:00 AM | Updated: Oct 26, 2023, 1:18 pm

A cougar is pictured. A new lawsuit says Utah's law that allows yearlong cougar hunting could lead ...

FILE: A mountain lion on a rocky ledge. (Lynn Chamberlain/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

(Lynn Chamberlain/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

SALT LAKE CITY — A wildlife protection nonprofit is calling for Utah Gov. Spencer Cox to veto a bill that opens the door for year-round cougar hunting in the state.

HB469 cleared the Utah Legislature last week after a third substitution of the bill was introduced on March 1. The update, proposed by Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, removes the state’s current program so that anyone with a hunting license can harvest cougars throughout the year without a tag.

“We’re getting an increase in our cougar numbers across the state,” Sandall said, as he introduced the changes on the Senate floor.

The substitution, he added, also provides a “cleanup” to the state’s trail camera ban during the hunting season. It’s still illegal to transmit trail camera images or other information on public lands that are used for hunting from July 31 through Dec. 31 every year. But cameras that use internal data can be used on private lands for taking wildlife, as long as they are not transmitting data.

Trail cameras can also continue to be used on public lands for research purposes, including by nongovernment organizations, educational institutions and people who are “conducting research in conjunction with” the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. They can also be used by “active agricultural operations” to monitor bears or cougars that may cause any livestock depredation.

The bill also calls for a study of pre-charged pneumatic air rifles in hunting, among other changes. The Utah Senate passed the bill with a 21-6 vote before the Utah House of Representatives voted 57-13 in favor. Barring a veto, the new law will take effect on May 3.

But groups like the Western Wildlife Conservancy are calling on Cox to veto the bill over the year-round cougar provision.

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Group calls for Cox to veto Utah bill that opens door for year-round cougar hunting