The Utah legislature has passed a new bill and sent it to the governor’s desk. This bill would allow year-round cougar hunting for anyone with a hunting license. The bill has been passed by the state’s House of Representatives and is now waiting for the governor’s signature. However, this move has been opposed by both conservation and hunting groups.
Republican Sen. Scott Sandall said that Utah has seen an increase in cougars across the state. This is reflected in statements from the state’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), which reported that cougar populations have rebounded over the last 10 years.
Year-Round Cougar Hunting
However, conservation groups have disagreed with this assessment and argue that cougars need greater protection to maintain their dwindling population. Utah’s mountain lion population is estimated to be around 1,600-2,000 by different groups. Yet, the state issued 3,900 cougar hunting permits in 2022, resulting in 491 harvested lions, which is nearly twice as many permits as the animal’s estimated population.
Moreover, the Mountain Lion Foundation has reported that the population continues to decline with increasing trophy hunts and habitat loss. The foundation also stated that a rise in poaching does not help the situation either.
If the bill becomes law, it would be part of an ongoing trend in Utah to increase cougar hunts. In 2020, the state passed House Bill 125, which authorized wildlife officials to offer more hunting permits for cougars when deer and elk populations fall below a certain amount.
“This law is scientifically uninformed and ethically fraught. It will do no demonstrable good, but will instead cause a lot of senseless death and suffering, as well as serious damage to the structure and functioning of the ecosystem.” – Kirk Robinson of the Western Wildlife Conservancy.
While Sandall believes that year-round hunting will help control the population, the DWR has said that they were “a little surprised” by the amendment. Typically, the agency is consulted when it comes to wildlife-related issues, but they were not consulted in this case.
The bill is scheduled to go into effect on May 3, 2023, if it is signed into law by the governor. Until then, conservation groups and hunting groups will continue to voice their concerns over year-round cougar hunting.
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