Wildlife biologists have received approval to manage Utah for a few more elk in the coming years.
On June 6, members of the Utah Wildlife Board approved revisions to Utah’s elk management plan. The revisions will allow the state’s elk population to be managed for up to 70,965 elk. The current objective is 68,825 elk.
The 2,140 additional animals will be scattered across the Chalk Creek, Kamas, Avintaquin, West Desert, Fillmore and Fish Lake management units.
The only area where biologists will manage for fewer elk is the Paunsaugunt unit in southern Utah. The board voted to reduce the unit’s elk population by 35 animals.
Anis Aoude, big game coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says the DWR formed committees to help its biologists determine the recommended population objectives for each of the six units. The committees included hunters, farmers and ranchers, private landowners and personnel from the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
“Utah has a lot of great elk habitat,” Aoude says, “but we need to make sure we keep the number of elk at a level that doesn’t conflict with others who are also using the land.”
In addition to the elk plan revisions, DWR biologists will start using the most up-to-date habitat information available to decide whether deer population objectives should be raised, lowered or remain the same.
Aoude says the DWR’s range trend crew does extensive on-the-ground habitat analysis in one of the agency’s five regions every summer.
Then the next summer, they travel to another region.
The crew visits each region once every five years.
“If deer objectives in a region need to change,” Aoude says, “it makes sense to make the changes as soon as possible after receiving the latest habitat information for the region.”
In the past, deer plans for units in all five regions in Utah were revised once every five years. “Instead of revising the units in all five regions once every five years,” he says, “now we’ll revise all of the units in one region every year, using habitat information the range crew gathered the summer before.”