New Cougar Hunting Rules

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It's likely that hunters will take fewer cougars during Utah's 2001 - 2002 cougar season.

At its meeting Aug. 16 in Salt Lake City, the Utah Wildlife Board approved slight reductions in the number of hunters who may hunt on the state's limited entry hunt areas, and the number of cougars hunters may take on the state's harvest objective areas.

The board approved 258 limited entry hunting permits for the 2001 - 2002 season, a reduction of 14 from the 272 available during the 2000 - 2001 season. The board also approved a total quota of 339 cougars be taken on harvest objective units, a reduction of 32 from the 371 quota set for Utah's 2000 - 2001 season.

With the reductions, the Division of Wildlife Resources is projecting that about 400 cougars will be taken during this upcoming season, compared to the 435 it projected hunters would take this past season.

The cougar hunting permit and quota recommendations were made to the board, based on how well cougar populations are doing at reaching objectives set forth in Utah's Cougar Management Plan. "The Wildlife Board approved the plan in 1999 and it has served as a useful guide in helping UDWR biologists make cougar hunting recommendations," said Dr. Mike Wolfe, mammals program coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

The plan has allowed hunters to take enough cougars to help depressed deer herds in some locations, while maintaining the viability of the overall population of cougars in Utah.

The plan sets several performance targets that are designed to keep Utah's cougar populations healthy. They include targets that call for the percent of cougars taken by hunters, that are 6 years of age or older, to average 15 percent or greater each season; that the total adult survival in a population be 65 percent or more; and that the number of females in the harvest not exceed 40 percent.

Management units under predator management plans are exempt from these performance targets.

With the plan as a guide, the board approved decreases in the number of cougars to be taken on 15 units. Harvest levels on 25 units will remain equal to those from last year, while increases were approved on 5 units to benefit depressed deer populations.

The 2001 - 2002 cougar hunting season on most of Utah's limited entry areas will run from Dec. 15, 2001 to June 2, 2002. Applications for limited entry cougar permits will be available by Oct. 2.

The season on most harvest objective areas will run from Dec. 15, 2001 to June 2, 2002 or until the number of cougars to be taken on that area has been reached, at which point the hunt on that area will end for the season.

Harvest objective area permits will be available, from Division of Wildlife Resources offices only, beginning Nov. 27.

In another cougar-related matter, the board voted to provide more limited entry permits to Utah residents by limiting the number of permits available to nonresidents to no more than 10 percent of the total permits available.

For more information call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office, or the Division's Salt Lake City office at (801) 538-4700.