More Cougars May be Taken Under DWR Recommendations

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The number of cougars taken during the upcoming hunting season in Utah could increase under recommendations being proposed by the Division of Wildlife Resources. People are encouraged to attend a series of public meetings and provide the DWR with their input about the recommendations.

Waterfowl hunting recommendations for Utah's upcoming season, which are still being drafted by the DWR, also will be discussed at the meetings.

Citizens who serve on Utah's Regional Advisory Councils will take the public input received to the Utah Wildlife Board when it meets Aug. 12 in Salt Lake City to approve Utah's 2004–2005 cougar and waterfowl proclamations.

Meeting dates, times and locations are as follows:

* Northeastern Region
July 26, 7 p.m.
Vernal City Office
447 E. Main St.
Vernal

* Southeastern Region
July 27, 6:30 p.m.
John Wesley Powell Museum
885 E. Main St.
Green River

* Southern Region
July 28, 7 p.m.
Millard High School
35 N. 200 W.
Fillmore

* Central Region
Aug. 3, 6:30 p.m.
Timpview High School
3570 N. 650 E.
Provo

* Northern Region
Aug. 4, 6 p.m.
Brigham City Community Center
24 N. 300 W.
Brigham City

Cougar hunting recommendations

The DWR is recommending that a quota of 527 cougars be set for 32 harvest objective units and eight units managed under a combined harvest objective/limited entry strategy.

Last season's quota was 482 cougars. About 65 percent of the quota is reached each season, so this year's quota of 527 could result in about 344 cougars being taken.

The DWR is also recommending that 259 permits be issued for 12 limited entry units and eight units managed under a combined limited entry/harvest objective strategy.

Last season, a total of 244 permits were offered for limited entry units. About 60 percent of the hunters who obtain a limited entry permit are successful at taking a cougar, so a projected 156 cougars could be taken on these units.

Last season, Utah hunters took 426 cougars. That was below the 475 to 500 cougars the division had projected might be taken and two fewer than the 428 cougars taken the season before.

Under its recommendations, the DWR is projecting that 500 cougars might be taken in Utah this season, which begins in late November on some units. Most of the increased take would happen in southwestern Utah, where deer herds are struggling.

"The drought has really impacted the deer herds here," said Nile Sorenson, wildlife manager for the DWR's Southern Region. "We're not getting the annual growth on the plants the deer rely on in the winter, and we don't have the abundance of summer vegetation that many of the nursing does need to produce enough milk for their fawns. On top of that is predation by cougars."

Sorenson says the ratio of fawns to does in the Southern Region last fall was 54 fawns per 100 does, and the overall number of deer on the region's units ranges from 75 percent to less than 25 percent of the number called for in management plans.

"We're doing several habitat projects to improve the habitat the best we can, but we need some relief from the drought to really see habitat conditions improve," Sorenson said. "One thing we can do for the deer right now is allow additional cougars to be taken. Once the deer herds bounce back, we can cut back on the number of cougars that are taken and allow cougar numbers to also grow."