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DWR recommends minor changes to bear hunting rules, rewards for reporting poachers and other items

Salt Lake City — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing a few changes to the state's black bear management plan and hunting rules and also some updates to the rules that provide a reward to someone who reports a poacher, as well as a few other items. The public is encouraged to give their feedback on the proposals.

Proposed changes to hunting rules and black bear management plan

2024 will be the third year of a three-year recommendation cycle for black bear hunting. As a result, the DWR is not recommending any changes to permit numbers for black bears for the 2024 seasons, and season dates will only be adjusted for the calendar year.

The DWR is recommending a few minor changes to the black bear rules. Previously, anyone who wanted to hunt black bears in Utah was required to take a mandatory bear hunting orientation course before they could apply for a permit. However, last year, the Utah Wildlife Board voted to only require the course if someone drew out for the permit, rather than requiring it before an individual applied for a permit. The DWR is proposing to update the rule to be in line with that approved change. The DWR is also proposing to clarify that a hunter must have the orientation course certificate in their possession — either physically or electronically (via the DWR Hunting and Fishing app) — while hunting or pursuing a black bear.

The Utah Black Bear Management Plan was updated and approved last year and will be in effect until 2035. However, the DWR is proposing to remove a small paragraph from the plan that required a statewide rollup of harvest variables, which is incompatible with the objectives outlined in other changes to the plan that were approved last year.

"This proposed update to the management plan allows biologists to recommend management strategies and address bear populations in specific units across Utah in response to issues like drought impacts, human conflicts and impacts to mule deer populations," DWR Game Mammals Coordinator Darren DeBloois said.

Recommended revisions to the rule for poaching reporting rewards

State rule currently allows the DWR to issue big game, bear, cougar or turkey permits to people who report poaching incidents involving those species. This is a unique incentive program that not many states offer.

"We greatly appreciate the help that we receive from the public in reporting poachers and other illegal wildlife activity," DWR Law Enforcement Chief Wyatt Bubak said. “Reward permits are one way that we demonstrate that gratitude, and they also encourage members of the public to help us fight against illegal wildlife activity in the state. We are proposing a few changes to this rule to clarify when, where and for what species the DWR may issue these reward permits."

The main proposed changes include:

  • Allowing for more protection for reporting parties
  • Accounting for instances where the individual qualifies for multiple permits
  • Removing references to cougar permits since cougar permits are no longer required after recent legislation that went into effect in May
  • Allowing for a reward permit on a nearby unit or similar unit or for a different species or voucher
  • Allowing for a premium limited-entry permit or once-in-a-lifetime permit to be issued to someone who reported multiple poachers or poaching violations
  • Including unlawful take of a trophy animal as a permit-eligible violation

Proposed unit elk plans

The Utah Statewide Elk Management Plan was approved last year and will be in effect until 2032. The DWR is proposing a few changes to eight hunting unit management plans, including updates to the population objectives on those units. The DWR is also proposing to split the management plans for two units, so that the plans more closely represent the separate elk populations. Those proposed unit plan changes include:

  • Splitting the Central Mountains elk unit plan into separate plans for the Manti and Nebo hunting units
  • Splitting the South Slope elk unit plan into separate plans for the Yellowstone unit and for the Diamond Mountain/Vernal/Bonanza unit.

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 or in person at the six public meetings. 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. 21 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 must 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: Dec. 5 at 6 p.m. at the DWR Springville Office at 1115 N. Main St. in Springville. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 6 at 6 p.m. at the Weber County Commission Chambers at 2380 Washington Blvd. #240 in Ogden. (Online comments must be submitted by Nov. 30 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. at the DNR Richfield Complex at 2031 Industrial Park Road in Richfield. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 7 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Southeastern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 13 at 6 p.m. at the John Wesley Powell Museum at 1765 E. Main St. in Green River. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 7 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Northeastern Utah RAC meeting: Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. at the DWR Vernal Office at 318 N. Vernal Ave. in Vernal. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 7 at 11:59 p.m.)
  • Utah Wildlife Board meeting: Jan. 4, 2024 at 9 a.m. at the Eccles Wildlife Education Center at 1157 S. Waterfowl Way in Farmington. (Online comments must be submitted by Dec. 21 at 11:59 p.m.)