Utah hunters can go ahead with their fall hunting plans. There will be, at this time, said Gov. Norm Bangerter in a Wednesday press conference, no closures or delays in the scheduled hunts because of high fire danger within the state.
He did point out, however, that conditions would continue to be monitored and that if fire threats worsen, things could change."But at this point, with the moisture we've received this week, that doesn't appear likely," said Dwight Bunnell, assistant chief of game management for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Concerns over the possibility of delayed or canceled hunts surfaced two weeks ago when Montana announced it was postponing early September hunts because of extreme fire danger in that state.
Monday evening, those restrictions were lifted and hunts for moose, bighorn sheep, black bear and upland game were opened.
On Wednesday, Washington and Oregon lifted closures on hunting and fishing in areas east of the Cascade Mountains.
According to Bunnell, there were never any discussions on canceling Utah's popular deer and elk hunts because of fire danger. More than 250,000 hunters will participate in those two October hunts.
"The question came up because hunters had heard about Montana. Our conditions are not as extreme as in Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. Before we ever close hunts, though, we believe there are ways to manage the problem short of closures," he added.
Wyoming officials said they have no plans to close or postpone hunts. The only closed areas there are where fires are now burning.
Colorado officials report there are only a few small areas in the state where there is fire danger, and that the rest of the state is no drier than during a normal year.
Idaho also held a press conference on Wednesday to tell hunters it was not delaying hunts, and also announced it was installing a toll-free phone number that hunters could use to call in fire-restriction violations.
State and federal agencies met last Monday to discuss the problems in Utah and jointly agreed that stopping the hunts was not necessary at this time.
Bunnell said the DWR was concerned over the possibility of closed hunts because of the size of Utah's deer and elk herds, and the poor condition of ranges as a result of the dry summer. He said the state needs a hunt this year to thin the herds.
"If we don't, we could be in real trouble this winter," he added. "Besides, when we set the deer season in late October, we did it so we would be out of or at least in a very low fire-danger period."