Deer and bighorn sheep in some of areas of Utah will receive help later this year after the Utah Wildlife Board approved recommendations to increase the number of cougars taken by hunters.
Board members made their decision after hearing recommendations from Utah Division of Wildlife Resources biologists, citizens representing Utah's five regional advisory councils and local residents whe attended the board's Aug. 12 meeting in Salt Lake City.
Board members approved recommendations to increase the total number of cougars taken on 33 harvest objective hunt units in the state. Coupled with the number of cougars taken on 14 limited entry hunt units, and six hunt units that provide both limited entry and harvest objective hunts, the increase will likely result in 475 to 500 cougars being taken by hunters during the 2003-2004 season. That's a 20 percent increase from the 418 taken last year.
"Mule deer, especially in eastern Utah, are struggling because of deteriorating range conditions and drought," explained DWR mammals coordinator, Craig McLaughlin.
"Controlling the number of cougars that prey on them is one thing we can do to try and help the herds. We're also concerned about the impact cougars have on bighorn sheep, particularly small bands of sheep that have been transplanted into new areas."
Board members voted to decrease cougar permits in some areas of the state where mule deer and bighorn sheep are not facing these challenges.
Applications for limited entry cougar permits will be available by Sept. 30 from hunting license agents, DWR offices and hunter education centers and the wildlife division's Internet website at wildlife.utah.gov.
Applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on Oct. 15 to be included in the draw for permits. Draw results will be posted by Nov. 19.
Harvest objective permits will be available from DWR offices only beginning Nov. 25.
Limited entry and harvest objective seasons on most of the state's units run from Dec. 13, 2003 to June 1, 2004. More details will be available in the 2003-2004 cougar proclamation. The proclamation will be available in early September.