Utah Looking to Legalize Year-Round Cougar Hunting

Utah legislators surprised many people last week when they passed a new bill regarding year-round cougar hunting.

Utah’s House Bill 469 proposes to legalize the hunting of cougars 365 days a year, without the need for tags or seasons. 

The state’s Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) reports an increase in cougar populations over the last decade, with the number of adult cougars estimated to be around 2,000. Last year, the state issued 3,900 cougar-hunting permits, resulting in the harvest of 491 lions. 

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Faith Heaton Jolley with the DWR told Fox 13 that the new bill could increase deer populations.

“Cougars are the biggest predator of mule deer, and so in areas where we had enacted some of our predator management plans, we actually had seen an increase in the adult does and other deer in those areas,” said Jolley.

Co-sponsor, Sen. Scott Sandall (R-Tremonton) added that the bill is also about improving public safety.

“The current way we try to do cougars is not working very well,” Sandall told Fox 13. “We have a permit allocation process that is simply not harvesting as many cougars, and I think we’ve got a lot more interaction between cougars and humans, cougars and wildlife and cougars and livestock.

“We’re seeing an increased amount of damage,” he added.

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However, The Salt Lake Tribune states that conservation groups are concerned about the impact of the bill on the “declining” cougar population, with many arguing that the animals need greater protection.

The bill was passed by Utah’s House of Representatives with little debate and is currently awaiting the governor’s signature to become law. It has sparked debate amongst conservationists and hunters.

While some hunters argue that the bill provides greater access to hunting, conservationists believe that it will exacerbate the problem of declining cougar populations.

Assuming Gov. Spencer Cox signs it into law, HB 469 will go into effect on May 3, 2023.

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About the author: Kimber Pearce is a student, an avid shooter, and a pro-2A advocate.

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