Cougar populations are doing well in Utah and wildlife biologists are now recommending more hunting permits for the upcoming season.
During the 2017-18 season, 581 cougar permits were offered, but biologists are recommending 653 hunting permits for the 2018-19 season, according to a Utah Division of Wildlife Resources news release. Wildlife officials, though, said hunters will likely not take that many cougars.
Even though 581 permits were offered last season, only 456 cougars were harvested.
"Cougars are tough to hunt," DWR game mammals coordinator Darren DeBloois said in a news release. "Not every hunter who gets a permit will take one."
But any hunter who does harvest a cougar during the hunting season must bring the animal to a DWR biologist or a conservation officer.
"The first thing we do is examine the animal to see if it's a male or a female," DeBloois said in the news release. "Next, we determine the animal's age by removing and analyzing one of its teeth."
DeBloois said wildlife biologists keep track of the cougars because the number of females and the number of adults in a cougar population are the key factors in keeping the population healthy and strong.
"A male cougar will breed with several females, so keeping plenty of females in the population is important," he said. "The number of adults is also important. A healthy population will have plenty of adults. If the number of adults starts to decline, we know the overall number of cougars in the population is declining too."
The state's management plan for cougars says that not more than 40 percent of the cougars harvested during the season can be females, and at least 15 percent of the cougars taken must be 5 years of age or older.
Biologists are asking for the public's input and recommendations for the proposed increase in permits. People can share their input at an upcoming Regional Advisory Council meeting or by emailing the council member for their area. The contact information for the Regional Advisory Council members can be found here.