Possible Bear Hunting Changes in Utah

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New plan means new possibilities for hunters

If you like to hunt bears, you might have opportunities in 2012 that you've never had before in Utah.

Black bear

Black bear hunters might have some new opportunities in Utah in 2012.

Photo by Lynn Chamberlain

A new bear management plan is making the new opportunities possible. The Utah Wildlife Board approved the plan earlier this year.

John Shivik, game mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the plan has opened the door to some new hunting options. "At the same time," Shivik says, "the plan provides some important safeguards to keep the state's bear populations healthy and safe."

All of the changes the DWR is recommending for Utah's 2012 bear hunts are available online. The following are some highlights:

  • Currently, most of the bears that are hunted in Utah are tracked by hounds and ran up trees. A few hunters hunt over bait using a bow and arrow. But starting in 2012, biologists are recommending that spot-and-stalk-only hunts be held in some areas in Utah.

    Hunters may not use hounds or bait during spot-and-stalk hunts.

  • Currently, all of Utah's bear hunting areas are limited-entry areas. Only those who draw a permit for a limited-entry area can hunt on it.

    Starting in 2012, biologists would like to offer some harvest-objective hunts too.

    The number of hunters who can hunt on a harvest-objective area isn't limited, so switching an area to harvest objective gives more people a chance to hunt the area. Letting more hunters hunt an area increases the chance that more bears will be taken.

    As soon as a predetermined number of bears are taken (called the area's quota), the hunt on the area will end for the season.

  • The spring hunts on some of Utah's bear hunting units might run a little longer in 2012. Having longer spring seasons allows biologists to put more pressure on bears in areas where bears often kill livestock and raid campgrounds.

Protecting the bears

In addition to opening the door to some new hunting opportunities, the new plan provides bears with some important safeguards:

  • In the past, Shivik says biologists have used three factors to determine the health of Utah's bear population—the percentage of bears taken by hunters that are female, the average age of the bears taken and the number of adult bears that survive in Utah from year to year.
  • You won't find those three factors in the new plan. Instead, biologists will focus on two key factors: the amount of female bears and the amount of adult males taken by hunters.

    (An adult male bear is a bear that's five years of age or older.)

    Shivik says the number of females and the number of adult males that hunters take gives important information about how a bear population is doing:

    • The number of females hunters take is important because females give birth to cubs and then care for the cubs after they're born.
    • "But the number of adult males hunters take is the best early indicator we have about the health of a bear population," Shivik says.

      Shivik says adult males wander more than the other age groups. Because they wander more, adult males are the bears hunters usually encounter and take.

      If biologists see that the number of adult males hunters are taking is going down—and the number of females is going up—they know the bear population in the area is in decline.

      "Once hunters start finding females, instead of the males they normally encounter first," Shivik says, "we know the population is declining in number."

In addition to the number of female bears and adult male bears hunters take, biologists are also using two important bear studies to determine the health of Utah's bear population:

  • One study involves snagging hair from bears at sites across Utah. After the hair is snagged, DNA tests are used to determine how often the bears that left the snagged hair are visiting the sites. This study is helping biologists measure how fast or slow the state's bear populations are growing.
  • In the second study, biologists visit bear dens in the winter to see how many cubs are in the dens and to assess the health of the cubs and their mothers.

    This study is giving biologists important information about the number of bears that are being brought into Utah's population each year.

Learn more, share your ideas

After you've reviewed the DWR's ideas, you can let your Regional Advisory Council members know your thoughts by attending your 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 Jan. 12 to approve rules for Utah's 2012 bear hunting and pursuit seasons.

Dates, times and locations for the RAC meetings are as follows:

  • Southern Region
    Dec. 6, 7 p.m.
    Beaver High School
    195 E Center Street, Beaver
  • Southeastern Region
    Dec. 7, 6:30 p.m.
    John Wesley Powell Museum
    1765 E Main Street, Green River
  • Northeastern Region
    Dec. 8, 6:30 p.m.
    Bingham Entrepreneurship and Energy Research Center
    320 N Aggie Blvd (2000 W), Vernal
  • Central Region
    Dec. 13, 6:30 p.m.
    Central Region Conference Center
    1115 N Main Street, Springville
  • Northern Region
    Dec. 14, 6 p.m.
    Weber State University, Shepherd Union Building, Rooms 404A and 404B
    3848 Harrison Blvd, Ogden


You can also provide your comments to your RAC via email. Email addresses for your RAC members are available online.

The group each RAC member represents (sportsman, non-consumptive, etc.) is listed under each person's email address. You should direct your email to the people on the RAC who represent your interest.


Ca_Vermonster's picture

I know that I will probably

I know that I will probably be in the minority here, and may take some heat for it, but I really like that they are making it spot and stalk only in some areas of Utah.  I have never been a fan of hunting any type of game over bait, specifically bears that are drawn in by molasses, day old bagels, and donuts.  Nor am I a fan of running an animal up a tree with hounds, only to sit around the base of the tree, find the best shot, and shoot the animal.  I think it's unsporting and paints our sport in a bad light. 

That being said, I have never, ever complained about someone doing something that is well within their rights to do, following the law. If they want to do it, more power to them.  I just don't like it.

It also appears that Utah will go towards what California has done for years with regards to their bear harvest.  The season is open to anyone, but once a pre-determined number of bears are shot, the season ends.  That's sound management in my book.  I like the changes that Utah is proposing.

Retired2hunt's picture

  Hmmmmm.  I have mixed


Hmmmmm.  I have mixed feelings on the first two highlights.  Having areas as only spot-and-stalk designation are only good if the population is such that you will run into these bears and have that stalking opportunity.  If these areas are not of a good bear population you are just selling more tags to harvest about the same amount of bears = more hunters in the woods hunting the same amount of animals.  Not a recipe for success.  Highlight #2 with harvest objectives does the same thing - more hunters hunting the same amount of bears.  Yes it gives more people a chance I am definitely not a fan as it only appears to be a revenue stream increase.  I am more for managing the wildlife so it offers more quota to be harvested THUS more tags and hunters.  The last highlight I am all for as some states do not have an after-season season to ensure the quota assigned is in fact attained.  This allows that to happen. 

The only thing I question on the protection of the bears is what was the definition of a male adult bear previously in the 2011 and prior plans.  The Utah DWR can easily manipulate the outcome with that new 5 year old definiton for 2012's plan.  If that is there to increase the managed population to allow more tags then okay. 

A lot here to digest and would expect the Utah DNR to be more specific in the expected outcomes to ensure the general public is understanding of what these changes actually do to the managed populations as well as the increased revenue streams. 


hunter25's picture

There are quite a few changes

There are quite a few changes to think about here but in general it sounds like a way to sell more permits and still kill a similar number of bears. It will help out a few guys that don't have access to dogs or the time to be able to go out and work baits or pay someone to do it though. Colorado's system is similar in some areas with even more permits and no quota. And I know they sell a ton of tags that never get punched and make a lot of money from the sales.

cantgetdrawn's picture

right on the nose.

Hunter I think your analysis is exactly right.  More tags less bears taken.