In the wake of a lawsuit by a New Mexico hunter, the Utah Wildlife Board has reluctantly agreed to allow nonresidents to pursue black bears and cougars with dogs.
The board reacted Wednesday to a lawsuit filed last month against Division of Wildlife Resources Director John Kimball.The lawsuit questions whether it is legal for Utah to prohibit nonresidents from pursing the predators with hounds.
Utah allows residents to chase - without killing - black bears and cougars in the spring and fall. There is no limit on the $25 permits. Wildlife officials and concerned citizens fear that the influx of houndsmen from surrounding states could be too much for the bears.
"We need to closely monitor the effect of increased pursuit on the animals in each unit," said board member Curtis Dastrup.
Kimball has the right to close certain areas or the entire pursuit season if he deems it is harming the animals.
Other states don't offer the same pursuit opportunities Utah does.
Boyde Blackwell, the DWR's bear and cougar specialist, said the division has looked into limiting the number of pursuit permits in the future. If that happens, non-residents would likely be restricted to 10 percent of the total permits and would pay a much higher fee. Because it takes legislative action to set fees, nonresidents will pay the same as residents this year.
"If you eliminate pursuit (altogether), the lawsuit issue would go away," Doug Chin during a public comment.
He and others questioned baiting bears, pursuing bears and cougars and the validity of the research methods used by state biologists.