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Wildlife board approves black bear hunting permits for next season

A total of 214 public black bear hunting permits were approved for Utah's 2003 seasons by the Utah Wildlife Board. Board members approved the permits after learning that the state's black bear populations are doing well.

The board, which consists of seven citizens appointed by the governor, approved the recommendations at a Dec. 17 meeting in Salt Lake City.

Division of Wildlife Resources staff members and citizen representatives from Utah's five regional advisory councils were among those who presented recommendations to the board.

Applications for 2003 Utah black bear hunting permits will be available beginning Feb. 4, 2003. Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on March 3 to be included in the 2003 Black Bear Draw. Results will be posted by April 4.

The 214 permits approved by the board were down slightly from the 217 permits approved for 2002. Craig McLaughlin, mammals coordinator for the DWR, says there are several indications that Utah's black bear populations are doing well.

"It appears that black bear populations have increased statewide since 1990, when Utah began limiting the number of hunting permits offered in the state," McLaughlin explained.

One of the best indications of this is on the Book Cliffs in east-central Utah, where a black bear study has been underway since 1991.

The DWR is providing most of the funding for the study, which is being conducted by Brigham Young University.

"For eight of the 11 years of the study, most breeding female bears on the Book Cliffs study area produced litters of cubs and survival of female bears was high," McLaughlin stated. "That's great news."

Also, while older-aged bears have been observed in each year's mortalities (either taken by hunters or taken because they were killing livestock) since 1997, many of the bears that have died in Utah each year since then have been sub-adults (two to four years old).

McLaughlin says this prevalence of young bears indicates that there's been strong cub production statewide in Utah for several years.

"This information supports the data collected from radio-collared bears on the Book Cliffs and is a good indication of a growing bear population across the state," McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin also says the guiding force behind black bear management in Utah is the state's black bear management plan. The plan was developed by the black bear discussion group, a 12-person group that included diverse interests ranging from hunters to environmentalists.

The plan was approved by the wildlife board in December 1999 and has guided black bear management in Utah since 2000.

"The plan uses a number of criteria to determine the DWR's success in reaching the management goals set out in the plan, and I'm happy to report that most of the objectives are being met," McLaughlin concluded.

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