319 wildlife animals in Utah have been killed illegally since Aug. 1, officials say


The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports that 319 wild animals have been killed illegally in the state since Aug. 1 through Friday. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah wildlife conservation officers say there has been an uptick in illegally killed animals ahead of the state’s busiest hunting period.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports there have been 319 illegally killed animals in the state between Aug. 1 and Friday, including 39 big game species like deer or elk. The other 280 animals were described as furbearer, waterfowl and fish species.

Division officials add that conservation officers have issued 569 citations following 4,347 license inspections while investigating potential poaching cases.

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Lt. Chad Bettridge explained earlier this month that invalid or expired licenses, permits for the wrong species, hunting in the wrong unit or season, trespassing/hunting on private land without written permission and improper harvest tagging are some of the most common hunting or fishing violations.

The recent poaching uptick comes as Utah’s hunting season gets underway. The archery general season for deer and elk began Aug. 20. Some other hunts have also started since then, but the main general hunt for waterfowl doesn’t start until Saturday. The all-weapon general-season spike and any-bull elk hunts run from Oct. 8-20, while the all-weapon general-season deer hunt runs from Oct. 22-30.

“Hunters need to take the responsibility of knowing the law, having a current hunting or combination license and knowing what species and areas their permits allow them to hunt before they go out into the field,” Bettridge said in a statement Monday.

Poaching is a persistent problem in the state, according to the division. Bettridge previously reported that 1,153 animals were killed illegally in 2021, including 52 trophy deer or elk and 241 nontrophy deer or elk. Cougars, bears, moose and bighorn sheep accounted for another 34 of the state’s illegally killed animals last year.

The size and species of an animal killed dictates whether a case is a misdemeanor or a felony. The punishments can result in fines, restitution fees and the loss of hunting privileges in Utah and most other parts of the country because of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact. Fifty-five people had their licenses suspected last year; another 54 have already lost their licenses this year, according to the division.

Meanwhile, state conservation officers credited other hunters and anglers for helping out in the recent poaching cases. Division officials say they received 240 tips from the various options to report poaching cases between Aug. 1 and Friday.

Bettridge said people can help out by reporting cases they’ve seen, vehicle descriptions or a license plate number. Anyone who witnesses a wildlife-related crime is also advised not to confront an individual suspected of the crime.

This information can be reported either by calling the division’s poaching tip hotline at 1-800-662-3337 or texting officers at 847411. It can also be reported online or through the division’s law enforcement app.

“We need your help,” Bettridge said. “Working together, we can enforce wildlife laws, which help with wildlife conservation and maintaining healthy populations and also keep our recreating public safe.”

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by way of Rochester, New York.

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