More black bears in Utah means more conflicts; new hunting opportunities

Black bear in Utah, place and date not specified | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — As the population of black bears increases, the Division of Wildlife Resources hopes there will be fewer incidents of black bears coming into conflict with people and livestock in 2015, offering new opportunities for bear hunters throughout the year.

At a meeting Monday, 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.

Taking a few more bears can help reduce the conflicts, DWR mammals coordinator Leslie McFarlane said, but it’s not the ultimate answer.

Black bear in Utah, place and date not specified | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
Black bear in Utah, place and date not specified | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain, courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

“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,” McFarlane said.  “As we continue to learn how to live with bears in Utah, conflicts between bears and people should decline.”


Read more: Prevent unwanted black bear encounters, tips to stay safe


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 have made Utah their home.

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

McFarlane says 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 the Wildlife Utah website 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 Apr. 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 board-approved changes should result in hunters taking 300 to 320 bears in 2015 during the bear hunt season.
“Hopefully,” Mcfarlane said, “hunters can help us by reducing the number of bears that come into conflicts and have to be killed for being aggressive.”Resources
  • For more information about Utah’s 2015 bear hunt, call the Department of Wildlife Resources’s Salt Lake City office at 801-538-4700
  • Information about how to live with bears is available online

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