SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Wildlife Board recently approved a few minor updates to the Utah Black Bear Management Plan.
The changes were made during a virtual meeting held Tuesday.
According to a press release from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the current black bear seasons and permit numbers were approved in 2019. Because the seasons and permit numbers are on a three-year recommendation cycle, the DWR did not recommend any changes to black bear hunting season dates or permit numbers for the 2021 hunts. Instead, board members only approved changes to update the management plan so it complies with legislative changes that were approved in 2020.
A law passed during the 2020 legislative session requires the DWR director to take immediate action if biologists determine that black bears are preventing mule deer populations from reaching management objectives. After biologists make that determination, predator management plans may be implemented to decrease bear population densities in areas of Utah where mule deer are struggling.
Many of the state’s deer populations have seen significant declines in recent years. Although the declines were usually caused by climatic conditions, high predator densities have, at times, not allowed deer populations to rebound even though weather and habitat conditions have improved.
New data from GPS collars helps DWR biologists determine the cause of death for many species. Predator management plans can be implemented for an area when the big game population in that area is under its management objectives and when biologists determine that predators, including black bears, are preventing the growth of the big game population. Several other conditions must also be met.
“These changes to the plan will align it with the legislative requirements to act when predators are impacting mule deer populations and preventing them from reaching management objectives,” DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said in the press release. ”The changes will also allow us to maintain healthy bear populations in areas where we are not seeing negative impacts.”
In 2020, Utah issued 1,190 black bear hunting permits. Hunters harvested a total of 443 bears, an increase from 369 bears harvested in 2019. Depredation incidents, where bears killed livestock or damaged agriculture, were up slightly in 2020, but the overall costs of damage decreased for the third year in a row.
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