Utah Wildlife Board Approves Minor Changes to Bear Hunting, Rewards for Reporting Poachers and More


Photo Courtesy of the Utah DWR

DWR News Release

During a public meeting on Thursday, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a few changes to the state’s black bear management plan and hunting rules and also some updates to the rules that authorize rewards for people who report poachers, as well as a few other items.

Changes to black bear management plan and hunting rules

2024 will be the third year of a three-year recommendation cycle for black bear hunting. As a result, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources did not recommend any changes to permit numbers for black bears for the 2024 seasons, and season dates will only be adjusted for the calendar year.

The Utah Wildlife Board voted to approve a few minor changes to the black bear rules. Previously, anyone who wanted to hunt black bears in Utah was required to take a mandatory bear hunting orientation course before they could apply for a permit. However, last year, the board voted to only require the course if someone drew out for the permit, rather than requiring it before an individual applied for a permit. During Thursday’s meeting, the board voted to update the rule to be in line with that approved change.

The board also approved a change to clarify that a hunter must have the orientation course certificate in their possession, either physically or electronically (via the DWR Hunting and Fishing app), while hunting or pursuing a black bear.

The Utah Black Bear Management Plan was updated and approved last year and will be in effect until 2035. However, the board voted to remove a small paragraph from the plan that required a statewide rollup of harvest variables, which is incompatible with the objectives outlined in other changes to the plan that were approved last year.

“This update to the management plan allows biologists to recommend management strategies and address bear populations in specific units across Utah in response to issues like drought impacts, human conflicts and impacts to mule deer populations,” DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said.

Updates to the rule for poaching reporting rewards

State rule currently allows the DWR to issue big game, bear, cougar or turkey permits to people who report poaching incidents involving those species. This is a unique incentive program that is only offered in Utah.

“We greatly appreciate the help that we receive from the public in reporting poachers and other illegal wildlife related activity,” DWR Law Enforcement Chief Wyatt Bubak said. “Reward permits are one way that we demonstrate that gratitude, and they also encourage members of the public to help us fight against wildlife crime in the state.”

The board voted to approve a few changes to the rule, including:

  • Allowing for more protection for reporting parties

  • Accounting for instances where the individual qualifies for multiple permits

  • Removing references to cougar permits since cougar permits are no longer required after legislation that went into effect last May 

  • Considering unlawful take of a trophy animal as a permit-eligible violation

  • Requiring the DWR to include the number of poaching rewards issued each year in an annual report

Changes to unit elk plans

The Utah Statewide Elk Management Plan was approved in 2022 and will be in effect until 2032. The board approved a few changes to eight hunting unit management plans, including updates to the population objectives on those units. The board also voted to split the management plans for two units so that the plans more closely represent the separate elk populations. Those unit plan changes include:

  • Splitting the Central Mountains elk unit plan into separate plans for the Manti and Nebo hunting units

  • Splitting the South Slope elk unit plan into separate plans for the Yellowstone unit and for the Diamond Mountain/Vernal/Bonanza unit.

Updates to the prohibited species list

In November 2023, the board approved a list of fish species that are prohibited in the state. However, convict cichlid, an ornamental fish species commonly sold in pet stores, was incorrectly added to that list. During Thursday’s meeting, the board voted to remove that fish from the prohibited species list for Utah, so it instead falls under the non-controlled species list in state rule. This change allows people to possess and transport convict cichlids like other commonly sold ornamental fish species imported into Utah.

Other items

During the meeting, the DWR also presented a few informational updates, including a legislative repeal of the rule related to the inedible byproducts of game animals and also the recommendations of a committee that examined shed antler gathering in Utah. The DWR’s official proposals for the shed antler gathering rules will be presented at future public meetings later this year to gather public comments before any action is taken. Any potential changes approved by the board wouldn’t be implemented until 2025.

You can watch the full meeting on the Utah Department of Natural Resources YouTube Channel.

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