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Predators Draw The Short Straw If Wildlife Bill Passes

Utah DWR

House Republican Carl Albrecht from Richfield is sponsoring a predator bill this legislative session. It would require Division of Wildlife Resources to cull through hunting permits, certain predators if large game numbers are lower than the DWR established herd sizes.

HB 125 defines a predator as cougar, bear and coyote. Issuing hunting permits for the defined predators would be required by DWR management should deer and elk populations drop below the preset numbers. DWR Managers would be able to override the statute if they can prove predators did not cause the drop in population numbers.

The bill’s sponsor, House Republican Carl Albrecht says predators have impacted the ungulate herds in his district and it’s an emotional issue for him and his family.

“I took my grandson muzzle-loader hunting deer this year. I always consider myself a pretty good hunter and I took him to spots where I thought I could find him a nice four-point Buck. And I hunted hard and he's a good kid, but it's been mentioned, it's a heritage. And I don't see that happening down the road. I hate to get emotional on an issue like this, but we do have a problem. I appreciate both sides of the issue."

Sierra Nelson from the Utah Wool Growers Association is in favor of the bill because she says ranchers are not seeing deer and elk, but they are seeing predation kill.

“This bill allows for preventative work not just reactive work. I personally have sat in a field where I've seen over 40 ewes that [were lost] to lion kill, and they didn't eat one. They swatted them to break their necks like a cat would with a mouse and then went about their day. This is going to be our kids soon and as I'm from Colorado, I can tell you they have prides of Lions that are roaming some of the towns picking off the house cats and the dogs. We can't let it continue. There has to be a balance.”

Utah State University Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology Dan McNulty says habitat quality is a key factor driving ungulate numbers from one year to the next. He says managing winter range and controlling invasive species has a bigger impact on improving herd populations than predator control.  He says the findings from an Idaho study shows removing predators won’t increase ungulate numbers.

“And this is one of the best studies I'm aware of. It was published in 2011 in the Journal Wildlife Management. I would say that the chances are low that you're going to come up with a measurable increase in trend in your ungulate numbers as a consequence of removing lions and coyotes. That doesn't mean it's impossible in the right circumstances when the numbers are below carrying capacity, your odds are better, but if we just look at what's in the record, it's not a favorable picture in terms of the outcome that you're looking for in terms of controlling predator numbers."

Natural Resources Committee Member Rep. Timothy Hawkes, Republican from Centerville, does not support the predator control bill.

If we don’t go based on sound science, we can actually be counterproductive. We can actually do things that hurt the very resource we're trying to protect and promote.

Natural Resource Committee Member Logan Wilde, Republican from Croyden representing District 53 voted in favor of moving the bill out of committee stating it’s a good bill.

“If the division of wildlife resources proves that predators are not contributing to the big game population being under the herd objectives. They have the burden of proof; they have the responsibility and they have to use science. I've never seen the division of wildlife not use science to meet their objectives.”

HB 125 passed out of committee on Tuesday in a 10-2 vote.

A link to the entire bill can be found on KPCW.org

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.
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