The Utah Wildlife Board approved the expansion of bear hunting opportunities for 2015 in a meeting on Monday, including new spring, summer, and fall limited-entry hunts as well as a harvest-objective hunt. The decision came after a large increase in bear conflicts due to a rising population across the state. According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), the state’s black bear population has increased steadily for years, and exploded from around 2,000 animals 15 years ago to over 4,000 today.

“On average, about 50 bears have to be euthanized each year after coming into conflict with people or livestock. In 2014, that number jumped to 91,” the DWR stated in a press release.

Leslie McFarlane, DWR mammals coordinator, said that the department is betting on hunters to to bring that number down. On average, Utah hunters harvest about 230 to 270 bears every year. The new changes approved by the board are projected to result in as many as 90 additional bears taken in 2015.

“Hopefully, hunters can help us by reducing the number of bears that come into conflicts and have to be killed for being aggressive,” McFlarlane said.

Biologists also emphasize that bear education is important for avoiding conflicts with humans or livestock. Although harvesting a few additional bears may reduce encounters with a hungry bruin, officials said that people should be aware that they live in bear country and act accordingly.

“The best way to reduce conflicts is to not leave food where a bear can get to it, and to keep your campsite or cabin area clean,” McFlarlane added. “As we continue to learn how to live with bears in Utah, conflicts between bears and people should decline.”

You can learn more about the new hunting opportunities on the DWR’s site.

Image courtesy National Park Service

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