WILDLIFE

Wildlife officials recommend no changes to Utah cougar hunting law

Jul 8, 2024, 1:09 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— One year after a new law went into effect, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources does not recommend changes. 

The law allows hunters to kill and trap as many cougars as they like, regardless of the season. 

Before the law was passed, participants needed a special cougar hunting permit. Also, they weren’t allowed to kill more than two each year. 

Now, participants only need one valid hunting license. 

The law doesn’t only cover cougar hunting. It also made it legal to trap them. 

Cougar hunting pushback

Some Utahns and animal advocates voiced opposition to the new law. They expressed concerns about overhunting. 

Related: Year-round cougar hunting in Utah? Those for and against sound off

However, the DWR said that hasn’t happened in the first year under the new law.

From May 2022 to May 2023, 512 cougars were hunted and killed across the Beehive State. A year later, between May 2023 and May 2024, the DWR reported that 511 cougars were hunted. 

In consideration of the data, DWR officials have not recommended any changes for the new cougar hunting law. 

“We decided that we would stay status quo [and] keep watching those numbers,” said Darren Debloois, DWR game mammals program coordinator.

Additionally, DeBloois said they like two to three years of data before they “can feel comfortable saying we have a good feel for what’s going on.”

If they start to notice problems later on, they can recommend changes then.

“We’re going to be proactive and actively manage it,” DeBloois said. “We’re going to keep an eye on things.”

Early insights

Most cougar hunting happens in the winter. Since some cougar habitat areas get too much snow to be reached by hunters, DeBloois said that some of the population doesn’t get hunted at all. 

Those hard-to-reach areas actually become the points of cougar reproduction.

“The danger of eliminating lions is not something that we’re concerned about,” DeBloois said.

DeBloois said the goal of the new law was not only to manage the cougar population but also the mule deer population.

“With the drought and some things, we lost a lot of mule deer in the state—and those lion populations stayed relatively high,” DeBloois said.

Cougars predominately hunt and eat mule deer. Given the deer population has dropped and cougar populations have risen, officials are trying to manage both effectively.

According to DWR data, as of 2022, there were less than 1,500 total estimated adult cougars across the state.

Adam Small is a reporter for KSL NewsRadio. He primarily reports on the Great Salt Lake and Natural Resources. Follow him on Facebook and X.  

 

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Wildlife officials recommend no changes to Utah cougar hunting law