Changes to Utah’s Bear Management Plan

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. — Last year, a new law gave the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) responsibility for managing the mule deer population. The goal is to assist in the recovery of declining deer populations and help maintain a healthy balance between predator and prey populations: if biologists found that too many mule deer were being killed by black bears, a predator management plan would go into effect immediately (one of the changes).

Black bear management came up during a UDWR wildlife board meeting earlier this month (video below), and a new plan was approved to respond to the impacts of black bear predation, which can include harm to agriculture as well as wildlife.

“These changes to the plan will align it with the legislative requirements to act when predators are impacting mule deer populations and preventing them from reaching management objectives,” said DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois in a statement. “The changes will also allow us to maintain healthy bear populations in areas where we are not seeing negative impacts.” Below are the two updates to bear management.

  • A law passed during the 2020 legislative session requires the DWR director to take immediate action if biologists determine that black bears are preventing mule deer populations from reaching management objectives. After biologists make that determination, predator management plans may be implemented to decrease bear population densities in areas of Utah where mule deer are struggling.

    Many of the state’s deer populations have seen significant declines in recent years. Although the declines were usually caused by climatic conditions, high predator densities have, at times, not allowed deer populations to rebound even though weather and habitat conditions have improved.

  • New data from GPS collars help DWR biologists determine the cause of death for many species. Predator management plans can be implemented for an area when the big game population in that area is under its management objectives and when biologists determine that predators, including black bears, are preventing the growth of the big game population. Several other conditions must also be met.

Utah issued 1,190 black bear hunting permits in 2020. Hunters harvested a total of 443 bears (2019 harvested 369 black bears). Depredation incidents, where bears killed livestock or damaged agriculture, were up in 2020, but the overall costs of damage decreased for the third year in a row.

No changes were recommended for the 2021 black bear hunting season and dates or permit numbers. For more information, download the 2021 Black Bear Guidebook.


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