SALT LAKE CITY — A new black bear strategy, started in Utah in 2015, did exactly what wildlife managers hoped it would: It led to government agencies taking fewer bears and hunters taking more.
After a Jan. 5 meeting in Salt Lake City, biologists with the Division of Wildlife Resources are hoping for a repeat in 2016. At the meeting, members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved a similar strategy for the new year.
All of the rules the board approved for 2016 will be available in the 2016 Utah Black Bear Guidebook. The free guidebook should be available online by late January.
In 2014, a total of 378 bears were taken by hunters and government agencies in Utah. In 2015, DWR biologists suggested the new hunting strategies. Even though the changes put more hunters in the field, the overall number of bears taken declined. In 2015, a total of 370 bears were taken by hunters and government agencies.
Something else changed, too: The number of bears taken by hunters increased while the number of bears government agencies had to take — because the bears posed a threat to people or killed livestock — declined.
In 2014, government agencies had to take 95 bears for public safety and livestock reasons. In 2015, that number fell to 45 bears. By comparison, the number of bears taken by hunters in 2014 was 283. In 2015, that number rose to 325.
Leslie McFarlane, mammals coordinator for the DWR, said the strategies implemented in 2015 gave more hunters an opportunity to hunt while helping reduce the number of bears that had to be killed because they threatened people or killed livestock. “And it accomplished that goal while keeping Utah's black bear population at a healthy, balanced level,” she said in a statement.
The strategy board members approved in 2015 — and approved again for 2016 — splits Utah's bear hunt into six seasons. The seasons are held at various times in the spring, summer and fall.
In 2015, a total of 690 hunting permits were available. For 2016, the Wildlife Board approved 712 permits.