Utah’s wildlife agency goes trigger happy with cougar killing quota increase

By on August 4, 2020 with 5 Comments

For the better part of a decade, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has proposed annual increases to the number of cougars that trophy hunters can kill in that state, despite widespread public opposition. Now, DWR is looking not merely to increase hunting quotas, but to open up the majority of Utah’s hunting units to unlimited trophy hunting of cougars (with a year-round season in most cases) and to double the number of cougars each trophy hunter can kill. This is little more than an extermination gambit.

During the 2019 hunting season, trophy hunters in Utah killed more than 500 cougars out of a population of about 2,750. If this proposal is approved, hundreds more could be killed during the 2020 hunting season, leading to broken populations and countless orphaned kittens who will die alone from starvation, predation or exposure once their mothers are killed by trophy hunters. Those who survive will grow up without having learned necessary hunting skills from their mothers, leading them to target easier prey to survive—including livestock.

The opposite approach, the protection of cougars from trophy hunting, will produce a much stronger outcome all around. Their populations will stabilize, and older cats who are more skilled at catching natural prey will thrive. They’ll be more likely to avoid human communities, and less likely to be involved in conflicts with people, pets and livestock.

That’s the approach we’re pushing, because DWR’s plan throws the best available science to the wind simply to appease big game hunters and a few ranchers.

The wildlife agency has staked its claim on the worn-out myth that killing Utah’s cougars will boost the state’s populations of mule deer and bighorn sheep—two species highly targeted by big game hunters. This special interest faction tipped its hand with legislation passed into law earlier this year that requires the culling of native carnivores like cougars to boost big game populations.

The rationale for killing cougars and other native carnivores is fundamentally unsound, as extensive research demonstrates that North American deer and sheep do not benefit from increased trophy hunting of native carnivores like cougars. Killing these carnivores, who are vital to ensuring healthy ecosystems, does not address the main factors driving deer and sheep declines, such as weather and disease. In fact, cougars help keep herds healthier by removing sick individuals who may spread chronic wasting disease, now plaguing deer herds throughout the country, among other conditions. And with the likelihood of increased predation on livestock, this extreme lethal approach to cougar management will only harm the ranchers DWR says it wants to help.

In the end, it’s pretty clear that DWR is attempting to manage deer and other big game species with an old playbook, one based on outdated and unrealistic population goals created decades ago when much of Utah’s natural landscapes were untouched by human development. Utah’s deer can no longer meet those historically high population goals, and DWR must develop sound and realistic population estimates to achieve healthy, stable population sizes suited to the size and expanse of the state’s remaining wild habitat.

The HSUS is working to oppose this cougar hunting proposal, and Utahns can submit comments to the Utah Wildlife Board before the deadline on August 20th at 11:59am CT.

Wildlife/Marine Mammals

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  1. Catherine says:

    I am appalled at Utah’s methods of controlling the cougar population. The animals could be shot with tranquilizers and be “fixed” rather than murdered. Humane options are available for animal control. I hope that the representatives responsible will reconsieder this murderous rampage and chose more humane options. This behavior is appalling and cruel. Shameful.

  2. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    Ya no podemos permitir mas violencia hacia los animalitos esto tiene que acabar no podemos permitir mas violencia y menos por diversión

  3. Steve says:

    There’s no overpopulation of cougars to be fixed, and no shortage of mule deer in this state. There is a shortage of mule deer bucks with antlers. Gee, can’t imagine why. There’s also a shortage of bighorn sheep…because of M. ovis, the virulent pneumonia they catch from domestic sheep. The problem is too many hunters (and poachers), and disease-ridden livestock not being kept separate from bighorn herds.

  4. cynthia brown says:

    this is horrible and should be stopped. These animals have the right to live
    and prosper. These animals should not be treated as commodity for trophy
    hunters. I don’t like thids idea at all

  5. Jeanne Hayes says:

    This is terrible and needs to be shut down. Utah you can do a better job than this. These animals do not need to be killed like this!!

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