(KUTV) — Due to a bustling black bear population, the Utah Wildlife Board approved a slight increase in the number of hunting permits available to hunt the animal.
This past season, only 365 black bear permits were issued to Utah hunters. But over the past 20 years the number of bears in Utah has tripled.
In a meeting on Jan. 11, members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved a permit increase that will likely result in 35 more permits being issued, bringing the number of permits to 400.
All black bear rules approved by the board are available in the 2018 Utah Black Bear Guidebook.
Efforts to protect and manage black bears in Utah are working, according to a news release.
"The number of bears in Utah has increased from an estimated minimum of 1,300 adult bears in 2000 to a minimum of just under 3,500 adult bears in 2016," the news release says.
The numbers given do not include cubs or bears under the age of two. Therefore, the bear population is in fact much higher.
“The state’s bear population has been growing steadily since 1998,” says Darren DeBloois, game mammals coordinator for the DWR, “especially in the southeastern part of the state.”
In addition to assisting the state meet objectives outlined in the Utah Black Bear Management Plan, hunters provide biologists with crucial information.
After killing a bear, hunters are required to bring the animal to a DWR biologist or conservation officer. The biologist or officer assesses the bear's overall condition and determines whether it is male or female. A tooth is also removed in order to determine the bear's age.
“These two simple procedures give us lots of information about how the population is doing,” DeBloois says.
Because female bears produce cubs, it is necessary to ensure the bear populations have enough females to sustain itself. Furthermore, because hunters typically target older males, the number of male bears that are five years or older provide useful insight into how the population is doing.
According to DeBloois, “If the number of older males hunters take holds steady or even increases—despite older males being the part of the population hunters target most—we know the overall population is doing well.”
Utah's Black Bear Management plan provides guidelines that help ensure the state maintains a healthy and stable bear population.
According to the plan, statewide not more than 40% of the bears taken by hunters over the past three years can be females. And at least 25% of the bears taken over the past three years must be males that are at least five years old.
From 2015 to 2017 only 31% of the bears taken were female, and 36% were five years of age or older.
“The state’s bear population is doing really well,” DeBloois says. “We’re excited about that.”