Slight Increase in Black Bear Hunting Permits Approved

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The Utah Wildlife Board recently approved 226 public black bear hunting permits for Utah's 2004 hunts after learning the state's black bear population is doing well.

The 226 permits are a slight increase from the 214 available in 2003. The board, which consists of seven citizens appointed by former Gov. Mike Leavitt, approved the permits after hearing recommendations from Division of Wildlife Resources biologists, citizens representing Utah's five Regional Advisory Councils and people who attended the board's Dec. 18 meeting in Salt Lake City.

Applications for 2004 black bear hunting permits will be available by Feb. 3. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on March 1 to be entered in the draw for permits. Draw results will be available by April 1.

Black bear population appears to be growing

"All of the information we have indicates Utah's black bear population is healthy, and that it's growing," said Craig McLaughlin, mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources.

McLaughlin said the survival of bears and the number of cubs being born each year continues to indicate a positive population trend. Also, the number of cattle and sheep killed by bears in Utah has increased since 1996. The number of bears taken by hunters, taken because they were killing livestock or hit on the road by cars has also increased in recent years. "These increases indicate the state's black bear population is growing," he said.

With the help of a public working group, the Utah Black Bear Management Plan was written in 2000. The plan relies on regulated hunting to maintain the state's bear population at a level that is in balance with other wildlife species. "The bear population should contain a reasonable portion of older animals and breeding females," McLaughlin said. "Several targets have been established in the plan to help DWR biologists draft hunting recommendations that will maintain bear numbers in Utah."

For example, not more than 40 percent of the black bears killed in Utah each year should be females, and bears taken by hunters should average at least 5 years of age. In addition, the survival of adult bears should be high because bears produce relatively few cubs each year.

All of these targets were met in 2003 except adult survival in Utah's southern mountains, which was slightly lower than the target called for in the plan. "The recommendations approved by the board for 2004 should keep us on course and help ensure that Utah's black bear population remains healthy and stable," McLaughlin said.

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