Division staff will present their recommendations to the state wildlife board on Aug. 31. They’re suggesting 579 cougar hunting permits for the year, compared to 531 last year. The reason for the increase, state biologists say, is because cougar populations continue to grow. Wildlife advocates, however, say the state’s methods are flawed.
“We think since about 2004, (cougar populations) have probably been growing by about 3 percent per year,” said Darren DeBloois, game mammals program coordinator for DWR.
There are no firm estimates on how many mountain lions live in Utah, since the animals are elusive and hard to track. DWR models suggest numbers between 1,900 and 4,000 adult animals. Authorizing hunters to potentially take 14 percent to 30 percent of the cougar population is unconscionable, conservationists say.
“This is concerning to us as scientists,” said Allison Jones with the Wild Utah Project. “It’s concerning to wildlife lovers, cougar lovers and environmental activists.”