Utah wildlife officials will allow more cougars to be hunted this season due to an increase in the animal’s population and increased attacks on farm animals.
The Division of Wildlife Resources came to a decision last week that 522 cougars can be harvested this year, up by about 5 percent from last year.
The Humane Society argues that this increase was made only to appease trophy hunters.
Leslie McFarland, the mammal program coordinator at the DWR, said the increase is part of a yearly review based on suggestions from biologists. She said Utah is split into 30 areas, and the amount of cougar permits went up in some of those areas and down in others.
“There was an increase in some areas, there was a decrease in some, but overall, the harvest is going to be similar to what it was in the past," she said.
McFarland believes the harvest will be similar because not everyone who is issued a permit hunts a cougar with success, so an increase in permits won’t necessarily change the numbers. Last year, though 500 permits were issued, just 371 cougars were killed.
“We’re doing it pretty conservatively based on the numbers we’re seeing in our population, especially compared to what the state offered conservatively," McFarland said.
In the 60s, there were no restrictions for cougar hunting, she said. In the early 90s, a record of 1,496 cougars were harvested. This year, McFarland predicts that between 340 and 370 cougars will be harvested.