Growing Bear Population in Utah Brings Changes to 2015 Hunt

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Hopefully, there will be fewer incidents of black bears coming into conflict with people and livestock in 2015.

At a meeting on Jan. 5, members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved some new hunting opportunities in Utah. The board approved the changes after 91 bears had to be euthanized because they posed a threat to people, sheep or cattle in 2014.

Leslie McFarlane, mammals coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, reminds Utahns that taking a few more bears can help reduce the conflicts, but it’s not the ultimate answer. “The best way to reduce conflicts is to not leave food where a bear can get to it and to keep your campsite or cabin area clean,” she said. “As we continue to learn how to live with bears in Utah, conflicts between bears and people should decline.”

(Information about how to live with bears is available at www.wildawareutah.org.)

McFarlane said Utah’s black bear population has increased steadily over the past 15 years. In the 1990s, slightly more than 2,000 bears lived in Utah. Today, more than 4,100 bears call the state home.

On average, about 50 bears have to be euthanized each year after coming into conflict with people or livestock. In 2014, that number jumped to 91.

McFarlane said the changes the board approved should result in hunters taking a few more bears in 2015 while still keeping plenty of bears in the state.

All of the rules the board approved will be available in the 2015 Utah Black Bear Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available at wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks during the week of Jan. 26.

You can apply for a black bear hunting permit starting Feb. 9.

New hunting opportunities

The following hunting opportunities are among those the board approved for 2015:

Spring limited-entry hunt. If you draw a permit for this hunt, you can track bears with trained hunting dogs. Or, you can spot-and-stalk. Spot-and-stalk involves moving through the woods in search of bears and then trying to sneak closer for a good shot. You cannot hunt over bait. The hunt runs April 4–June 5.

Summer limited-entry hunt. If you draw a permit for this new hunt, you can hunt over bait using a firearm or archery tackle. You cannot use trained hunting dogs. You can start placing bait on May 23, but you’ll have to wait until June 6 to start hunting. The hunt runs until July 2.

Fall limited-entry, archery-only hunt. This new hunt is being offered in two areas in Utah. If you draw a permit for this hunt, you can hunt over bait, but you must use archery equipment. Firearms are not allowed and you cannot use trained hunting dogs. The hunt runs Aug. 10–Sept. 11.

Fall limited-entry hunt. If you draw a permit for this hunt, you can hunt with trained hunting dogs or you can spot-and-stalk. You can also hunt over bait with a firearm or archery equipment. The hunt runs Aug. 22–Sept. 28 and Oct. 31–Nov. 19. Season dates and hunting methods are different on a couple of units.

Harvest-objective hunt. Permits for this hunt are not limited in number, and you can buy one over the counter. Biologists have set harvest objectives (quotas) for the number of bears that need to be taken on units that are part of the harvest-objective hunt. When the objective on a unit is met, that unit will close to bear hunting for the rest of the season. The harvest-objective hunt will be offered on a few units during the spring and on one unit in the fall. You can buy a harvest-objective bear hunting permit starting March 19.
Slight increase

During the last three years, hunters in Utah took between 230 to 270 bears each year. McFarlane said the changes the board approved should result in hunters taking 300 to 320 bears during the 2015 season.

“Hopefully, hunters can help us by reducing the number of bears that come into conflicts and have to be killed for being aggressive,” she said.

For more information about Utah’s 2015 bear hunt, call the nearest Division of Wildlife Resources office or the DWR’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700.

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