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A troubling number of black bears were killed by federal and state wildlife managers in 2014 after they destroyed crops, feasted on livestock or threatened people.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) leaders hope changes to the bear hunt approved by the Utah Wildlife Board Tuesday could lead to rank-and-file hunters killing more black bears — perhaps an additional 70 to 90 animals each year — and cutting the number that have to be removed by other means.

"None of our employees want to go shoot a bear standing on a picnic table," DWR director Greg Sheehan told the board.

Last year, 91 black bears were identified as nuisance animals and killed. Most years, an average of 57 problem bears in Utah are destroyed by wildlife managers.

Predators took center stage during the wildlife management meeting.

Just over a week after a gray wolf was shot and killed outside Beaver, board members also approved a request from the state wildlife agency to extend Utah's Wolf Management Plan, which expired on Dec. 31.

Meanwhile, hunters in Utah will have more chances to kill black bears starting this spring.

Through a combination of increased permits, more times to hunt and additional hunting areas, Utah wildlife managers believe they can reduce human-bear conflicts.

Most years, approximately 230 to 270 bears are killed by hunters. Biologists expect somewhere between 300 and 320 bears to be killed under the new hunts and rules.

Biologists believe Utah's black bear population has doubled over the past 15 years to an estimated 4,100 animals. DWR mammals program coordinator Leslie McFarlane said the population appears to be growing by 5 to 6 percent annually.

McFarlane asked the board for the chance to make changes in the number of bear-hunting permits after a year, rather than waiting for several years as the plan dictates.

"We want to come in and make a separate recommendation if the changes were too aggressive," McFarlane told the board.

Some Utahns at Tuesday's meeting spoke against the bear hunt and using dogs and bait.

"The problem is not the bears," said Danielle Patterson, who described herself as an environmental studies major. "The problem is more about people. We need more education about how people can live with bears."

Sheehan and McFarlane said efforts to educate the public about black bears continue — both on the state and federal level. More information is available at

The Utah Wolf Management Plan will only be implemented when, or if, gray wolves are removed from the Endangered Species list across all of Utah. Written with the input of various stakeholders, the plan was crafted over two years. In 2005, the Utah Wildlife Board approved it for a term of 10 years, setting an expiration date of Dec. 31, 2014.

State wildlife biologists suggested extending, but not changing, the decade-old plan "based on the current legal and biological status" of wolves in Utah.

In the end, board members extended the plan for 5 years.

McFarlane said it is likely changes will have to be made before Utah's plan is submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The federal and state investigation into the shooting of a 3-year-old female wolf on Dec. 28 continues. Wildlife managers say a report could come this week.

Twitter: @BrettPrettyman —

Utah's Wildlife Board approved the following changes to the bear hunt:

Spring limited-entry hunt — April 4-June 5. Requires a drawing a permit. Hunters can use dogs or "spot and stalk." Bait is not allowed.

Summer limited-entry hunt ­— June 6-July 2. Requires drawing a permit. No dogs allowed, but bait stations can be used. Hunters can use firearms or archery to kill the bear. Bait can be placed starting May 23, but hunting will not be allowed until June 6.

Fall limited-entry and archery-only hunt — A new hunt allowed in two units from Aug. 10-Sept. 11. If a permit is drawn, hunters can use bait, but can only attempt to take the animal with archery gear. Firearms and hunting dogs not allowed.

Fall limited-entry hunt — Dogs are allowed for hunters who draw a permit from Aug. 22-Sept. 28 and Oct. 31-Nov. 19. Bait also is allowed. Firearms or archery equipment.

Harvest-objective hunt — Permits can be purchased over the counter. Once hunting unit quotas set by biologists are reached, the area is closed.