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DWR proposes changes to trail camera use, black bear and cougar hunting

Salt Lake City — After recommending some changes earlier this year regarding the use of trail cameras in hunting, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources postponed the proposal — per a request from the Utah Wildlife Board — in order to conduct an additional public survey. Now that the survey results are in, the DWR is again proposing changes to the use of trail cameras and other hunting-related technologies. The DWR is also recommending some changes to black bear and cougar hunting in the state, as well as some other items, and is seeking the public's feedback on the proposals.

Proposed changes to trail cameras and other technology used in hunting

The Utah Legislature passed HB 295 during the 2021 legislative session, and it went into effect May 5. This new law instructed the Utah Wildlife Board to make some rules governing the use of trail cameras in hunting. As a result, the DWR conducted two separate surveys, surveying over 14,000 big game hunters to get feedback on potential proposals for the wildlife board. The survey results showed that the majority of the public opposed using transmitting trail cameras for hunting (cameras that transmit images and footage in real time).

The DWR is proposing to prohibit the use of transmitting trail cameras (or non-handheld transmitting devices) that are used to harvest or to aid in the harvest of big game between July 31 and Jan. 31. The DWR is also proposing to prohibit the sale or purchase of trail camera footage or data that will aid in the harvest of any big game animals. This new rule would not apply to private landowners who are monitoring their property for trespass or active agricultural operations, nor would it apply to cities involved in the Urban Deer Program. However, transmitting trail cameras on private property could not be used to help in the harvest of big game.

Another proposed change is to not allow any night-vision device to locate or attempt to locate a big game animal. This would go into effect starting 48 hours before any big game hunt opens in an area and would remain in place until 48 hours after the big game hunt ends in the area. This includes the use of night-vision devices, thermal-imaging devices, infrared-imaged devices and other electronic devices that enhance the visible and non-visible light spectrum. This type of technology has increased in popularity and use in hunting in recent years.

"These proposals are aligned with the new law that directs us to create rules to govern the use of hunting trail cameras in Utah," DWR Big Game Coordinator Covy Jones said. "We feel that these new rule changes reflect much of the public feedback we received during our surveys, and that they will also help maintain a more sportsmanlike and 'fair chase' approach to hunting in Utah."

Other big game hunting recommendations

A few additional changes were proposed for some big game hunts, including:

  • Allowing an individual to apply for and hunt the following species in the same year: doe and buck pronghorn, cow and bull moose, and ewe and ram bighorn sheep. This would help streamline the hunt drawing process and is one of the necessary changes to allow the proposed permit numbers to be available during the drawing.
  • Requiring bison hunters to review educational information about shot placement for hunting bison prior to the hunt. The Utah Wildlife Board requested this change to provide more education to bison hunters.
  • Not requiring hunter orange during the general-season any bull archery hunt that overlaps with the general-season any bull youth hunt. The youth would still be required to wear hunter orange during their hunt.
  • Clarifying that the handgun-archery-muzzleloader-shotgun permits are not valid on extended archery hunts.
  • Stating that the national wildlife refuges in Utah are closed to hunting unless they are declared open to hunting by the managing authority.
  • Clarifying that antlerless elk-control permits must be used on an antlerless-elk control hunting unit and cannot be used on a Cooperative Wildlife Management Unit.

If approved by the Utah Wildlife Board, these changes would become effective for the 2022 hunting seasons.

"Some of these rule changes will help to simplify, streamline and clarify some of the previous hunting rules," Jones said.

Cougar recommendations

During the Utah Wildlife Board meeting in August, the cougar hunting permit numbers were approved for the next three-year management cycle. The board also approved changing the schedule for when the annual cougar hunting rules are presented and finalized, which would move the recommendation cycle to December, rather than July. This change will provide more time to compile data from the previous year’s hunts, and it also combines the cougar hunting recommendations into the same meeting as the black bear hunting recommendations. This means that hunters will have the opportunity to apply for both black bear and cougar hunts in February 2022.

Most of the already-approved season dates will remain the same for cougar hunting. However, the DWR is proposing some changes on a few select units where cougar hunting with hounds overlaps with using bait to hunt bears and has caused some enforcement issues (hunters using hounds can not use bait to hunt black bears in Utah.)

Black bear recommendations

The DWR is proposing the black bear permit numbers for the next three-year cycle, which begins in 2022. A few changes are also being proposed for black bear hunting, including:

  • Changing season dates for a few hunting units where the pursuit and bait seasons overlapped.
  • Requiring hunters to choose if they want to hunt using dogs or bait when they apply for a black bear permit for the fall season.
  • Allowing for online bait station registration.
  • Removing the harvest-objective hotline — which is now discontinued — and requiring hunters to check for unit closures on the cougar harvest or bear harvest pages on the DWR website.

Other recommendations

The DWR is also proposing to keep the bobcat permit numbers and season dates the same in 2022–23 as they were this year — allowing six permits per individual, with no total permit cap, and the season running from Nov. 17, 2022 through March 1, 2023.

The proposed season dates for the other furbearer species are:

  • Beaver and mink: Sept. 17, 2022 to April 1, 2023
  • Marten, badger, gray fox, kit fox, ringtail, spotted skunk and weasel: Sept. 17, 2022 to March 1, 2023

Give feedback

The public meetings for the recommendations can either be viewed virtually or attended in person. You can view the biologists' presentations before the meetings and share your feedback about them on the DWR website. The presentations are also available on the DWR YouTube Channel, but comments can only be submitted through the forms on the DWR website.

The public comment period opened on Nov. 23 for each of the five Regional Advisory Council meetings and for the Utah Wildlife Board meeting. Public comments submitted within the online-comment timeframes listed below will be shared with the RAC and wildlife board members at each respective meeting. Members of the public can choose to either watch the meetings online or attend them in person. If you wish to comment during the meeting, you should attend in person — online comments will only be accepted until the deadlines listed below.

The meetings will be held on the following dates and times:

  • Central Utah RAC meeting: Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. at the DWR Springville Office at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 25 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 25 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 7 at 6 p.m. at the DNR Richfield Complex at 2031 Industrial Park Road in Richfield. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 2 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 2 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 9 at 6:30 p.m. at the DWR Vernal Office at 318 N. Vernal Ave. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 2 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Utah Wildlife Board meeting: Jan. 4 at 9 a.m. at the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at 1157 South Waterfowl Way in Farmington. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 27 at 11:59 p.m.)