The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing to expand the number of permits and areas in which black bears can be hunted in the state.
DWR Mammals Coordinator Leslie McFarlane said the number of black bears in Utah has more than doubled since the 1990s.
“We estimate that we’ve got about 4,100 bears, if not probably a little more than that, and most of them live in our mountainous areas of the state,” McFarlane said.
The increase in the bear population has led to more conflict with both people and livestock. The DWR says in an average year 50 bears are euthanized after coming into contact humans and animals; however, in 2014 that number increased to 81 bears.
“We’ve had quite a number of bear problems this past summer that really concern us,” McFarlane said. “It’s one of the key measures that we use to evaluate how many permits and type of [hunting] method for an area that we want to hunt bears in.”
McFarlane said hunting policy is reevaluated every three years. The increased bear population and instances of conflict are the main factors in the new hunting proposals, she added.
DWR biologists are proposing expanding the areas in which hunting is allowed and increasing the number of permits offered to hunters. McFarlane said a new hunting season could be added during the summer months.
“We’re proposing adding a bait hunt from the end of June to the first part of July to kind of change the timing that we’re harvesting bears to try and help control some of the bears that get into campground trouble,” McFarlane said.
Currently 230 to 270 black bears are hunted each year. The changes to hunting policy could bring that number up to between 300 and 320 bears.
The Regional Advisory Council is inviting public comment on the proposed hunting changes before its members make a final decision on Jan. 8.