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Amy Navarro: The secret behind cougar hunting in Utah

State is more interested in attracting big-spending hunters than in wise wildlife management.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) A 4-year-old female mountain lion slowly shakes off the effects of a sedative after researchers from Utah State University and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources replaced her radio-collar afer being captured in the Oquirrh Mountains recently.

Coming from the big city of Los Angeles, a city that never sleeps, I was used to the sounds of everyday commotion and the bustling sounds of people walking down the street, seeing the large skyscraper buildings and being surrounded by entertainment. I grew up in the city known for movies and music, and with the notion of Los Angeles being the entertainment capital of the world.

When I moved to Salt Lake City, I was shocked when talking to a classmate who mentioned that he was going hunting over the weekend. “Is this a form of entertainment?” I thought to myself. My thought of hunters were people who lived out in the wildness of Alaska or those who killed big game in Africa; I never thought people in a city would hunt for sport.

I wanted to know more about the hunting culture in Utah as I was very unfamiliar of its existence and importance in the state.

As I listened to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources predator management plans, I sat there confused and shocked; “I want sportsmen to have the opportunity.” I began to question the real intentions of these new laws and questioned whether the sport of hunting was a stronger factor playing into these new recommendations than the biological reasons.

I wanted to see the relationship of profits and hunters in Utah after this new predator management plan that gave hunters more opportunity to kill predators such as cougars to understand how popular hunting is in Utah and how the state benefits from it. One of the hunting businesses I emailed wrote back to me; however, they asked to remain anonymous.

The hunting group business shared how Utah has been getting more visitors for hunting, especially with the COVID travel restrictions to international countries. With supplies needed to hunt these animals, paying for permits and traveling expenses, Utah is benefitting financially opening more hunting opportunities.

Wildlife hunting is a big game in Utah. I did not realize the millions of dollars hunting is worth and brings to Utah.

The DWR mentioned multiple times that the board composed of biologists made these changes to bring validity to their statement. However, I question the true intent of these biologists. Independent advisory groups composed of experts have provided research to the public and analyzed the changes in cougar behavior due to hunting, have cautioned that the plan amounts to overhunting and could destabilize the population.

The public has been misinformed and made to think that hunting predators is the only way to solve the issues prey populations face.

The state of Utah is investing the most money out of all western states for predator control to assist the decreasing population of mule deer. Why is Utah spending so much money and effort on predator control for the deer population, when there are still hunting seasons for deer currently? Instead of allocating these funds and resources to make new laws to protect the mule deer and prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease that is affecting the deer population, they are adding new cougar hunting periods.

It is counterproductive to kill the animals that can hunt out these sick mule deer, preventing the spread of this disease to other mule deer, elk or even humans. Utah wants hunters to hunt out predators and sick mule deer, when this process can just occur naturally and in a more efficient way.

We have been taught that hunting is the ultimate solution to most issues prey populations face and learn to view predators in a negative light. I call on the DWR to modify their statements towards predators and for the public to research the real intentions behind these new predator management plans.

Amy Navarro

Amy Navarro is from Los Angeles, California, and is a medical laboratory science student studying at the University of Utah.

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