Adding an extra week to Utah's experimental spring bear hunting season was among actions the Utah Wildlife Board took at its meeting Dec. 18 in Salt Lake City.
The board approved a Division of Wildlife Resources proposal to add the extra week to provide biologists with better data about whether fewer female bears are taken if bear hunting takes place in the spring, and whether incidents involving bears killing sheep and other livestock can be reduced through spring hunting.
The board also approved a total of 217 black bear hunting permits for Utah's 2002 spring and fall seasons, a net increase of five permits from the 212 offered for the 2001 seasons.
Dr. Mike Wolfe, mammals program coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, said a total of 65 bears were taken by hunters during Utah's 2001 seasons. This included 20 animals killed on three units during the first year of the five-year experimental spring bear hunt. Females comprised 15 percent of the bears taken during the spring hunt.
During the fall hunting season, an additional 45 bears were killed by hunters. Females comprised 44 percent of the animals taken during the fall hunt.
"Females with young cubs typically remain close to their dens in the spring, which may help hunters in knowing whether they've found a female bear," Wolfe said. "Also, male bears usually emerge from their dens in the spring earlier than females, and they typically range farther from their dens than females with cubs, so there's a good chance that those hunting in the spring will encounter more male bears. Male bears are usually the bears involved in depredation incidents."
Spring bear hunters said that very few bears were available to them during the first weeks of the four week season this past spring, which was confirmed by harvest data. On the three units open to spring hunting, no bears were taken on one of the units and only one bear was taken on a second unit.
Wolfe says adding the extra week should result in bears being taken on all four units. This will help biologists by bringing the number of bears taken on the spring hunting units closer to the number taken on three similar units that are open to hunting in the fall. This will allow them to make a better comparison between the two hunts and help them determine if spring hunting results in a lower percentage of female bears in the harvest.
The board agreed and added one week to the spring season, which will run April 13 to May 27, 2002.
Black bear hunting permits approved by the board remained similar to 2001. Permits were increased on three units (the Book Cliffs; Nine-Mile, Anthro-Range Creek; and South Slope) and decreased on two units(the Manti,North and Manti, South).
Applications for black bear hunting permits will be available by Feb. 5, 2002 from hunting and fishing license agents statewide, the Division of Wildlife Resources Internet Web site (www.wildlife.utah.gov),and Division of Wildlife Resources offices and hunter education centers.
To be included in the draw for permits, applications must be received no later than 5 p.m. on March 4, 2002.
For more information call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office.