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Utah Considers Additional Bison Hunting for This Season

September 28, 2009.

In response to a recently completed bison population survey in the Henry Mountains, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is considering additional bison hunting opportunities for the 2009/2010 season.

Based on a summer survey, the UDWR estimates that there are 452 adult bison currently on the Henry Mountains. The UDWR is sensitive about population numbers for this herd, and has an objective of 275 adult bison post-season.

With post-hunt herd size estimated at approximately 15% over objective, the Henry Mountain Bison Committee has been meeting to explore possible strategies which would allow them to reach population objectives.

The committee came up with two options:

Option 1, strongly prefered by the Committee, is to relocate 40 bison to the new Book Cliffs herd in January, 2010. The population objective on the Book Cliffs is 450 adult bison. Currently, that population numbers less than 50 animals, so relocating 40 bison to the Book Cliffs would be an important step towards continuing to establish that herd.

Option 2, which will be pursued if Option 1 is not possible, is to increase bison permits on the Henrys by 39 for the 2009/2010 hunting season. (Currently, 154 permits have been issued for this fall).

Under this plan, UDWR would issue 9 additional cow permits and 30 additional hunter’s choice permits.

Expanded hunting would require 2 changes to the current season structure. All 9 additional cow permits would be added to those issued for the existing hunt # 6 (Dec 23- Dec 31). This would place a total of 28 cow hunters on the unit at the same time. Because of the additional hunters, UDWR recommends extending that hunt from Dec 23 to Jan 6 to minimize hunter crowding.

Secondly, UDWR would implement a new hunter’s choice hunt from Jan 7 to Jan 24, 2010. 30 permits would be issued for this new hunt (# 7).

Adding additinal licenses at this point does have some significant drawbacks. Cows taken during the proposed late hunt would typically be carrying fetuses, and this is likely to be generate negative reaction by both participating hunters and the general public.

Additionally, bison hunting in Utah is a once-in-a-lifetime hunt, and hunters selected on such short notice may not have time to prepare and plan for this opportunity.

Public input is being sought at meetings on September 28 and 29. A decision is expected on which option to pursue around October 15.

It is not currently clear how hunters would be selected for any additional hunts. I am guessing that those who have already submitted an application for Henry Mountain bison hunts would be contacted if their names were next on the list. But, it's possible that there may be a new application period open.

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