ST. GEORGE – If you hunt, fish and otherwise just enjoy the outdoors, Utah wildlife officials are asking you to keep an eye out for possible signs of poaching as the fall hunting seasons continue.
“We need your help,” said Capt. Mitch Lane of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “While you’re enjoying time in the outdoors this fall and winter, please be observant. If you see something that doesn’t seem right, please let us know.”
Signs of poaching – and illegal hunting activities in general – include hunters shooting animals but not retrieving them, shooting after dark or any activity that seems suspicious.
According to a DWR news release issued Friday, DWR conservation officers catch plenty of wildlife violators already, yet are spread thin. That is why they are asking the public to keep an eye out for suspicious activity and to report it.
“Even if what you saw doesn’t look like a big deal, let us know about it,” DWR Law Enforcement Section Chief Rick Olson said. “Some of our most significant cases started when someone called us with a small tip that led us to more information.”
Poaching is an issue across the state, DWR Lt. Paul Washburn previously told St. George News.
Some of the latest incidents of poaching reported on DWR’s website this year include a moose killed in Rich County, a deer killed in Layton, an American kestrel and its chicks killed while in their nest boxes and two cougars shot and killed in Davis and Beaver counties.
In Southern Utah proper, DWR officers have also investigated various incidents of poaching involving the removal of deer heads, Washburn said. A more recent incident involved a man shooting a deer with a rifle while on an archery hunt tag.
“Wildlife belongs to the people in the state of Utah and when someone is willing to poach, (they’re) stealing from the other sportsmen who are doing it right, as well as stealing from people who want to watch wildlife,” Washburn said.
Ways to report poaching, courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Services
UTiP – Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher– hotline
Witness something that could be a possible hunting violation or out of place? Call the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher, or UTiP hotline as 1-800-662-3337.
The line is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and Olson encourages the public to place the UTiP number in their phones.
“If the number’s in your phone,” he said, “you won’t have to remember it when a violation occurs. You’ll have it right at your fingertips.”
Another option is to pull out your hunting or fishing license: the UTiP number is printed on it.
If the UTiP number isn’t in your phone, and you don’t have a hunting or fishing license or permit with you at the time the violation occurs, you can still get the number at wildlife.utah.gov.
You can also reach law enforcement officers directly by calling the nearest DWR office, sheriff’s office or local police department.
Be a good witness
Keep a few things in mind, and you’ll provide DWR officers with what they need to make an arrest:
- A description of the person and the location where the incident is occurring. “If you have a GPS unit with you,” Olson said, “give us the coordinates. GPS coordinates are really helpful in getting us to the right spot as quick as possible.”
- If possible, provide a license plate number for the person’s vehicle.
If you find something suspicious
If you find something suspicious that isn’t an emergency — for example, if you find a dead big game animal from which someone has removed the head — or if you have any other information you want to share about a possible wildlife violation, you can report it two ways:
Conservation officers may not receive emails immediately, however, Olsen said. If you need to get a hold of DWR right away, best to call 1-800-662-3337.
The consequences of poaching
“Because Utahns value wildlife so highly, convicted poachers face steep consequences,” wildlife officials state on the DWR website. “In addition to paying fines and restitution, poachers may also face jail time, the confiscation of hunting equipment and the loss of hunting and fishing privileges in multiple states.”
When someone is convicted of illegally killing or possessing protected wildlife, they often have to make restitution payments. These payments go into the Help Stop Poaching Fund, which pays rewards to hunters who help catch and convict poachers.
The Utah Legislature has set the following amounts as minimum restitution for Utah’s trophy animals:
- $30,000 for either desert or Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep,
- $8,000 for deer with 24-inch antler spread or larger,
- $8,000 for elk with six points on at least one side,
- $6,000 for moose or mountain goat,
- $6,000 for bison,
- $2,000 for pronghorn.
If the DWR determines that a poacher’s crime is intentional or reckless, he or she may lose the right to hunt and fish in Utah and many other states. Utah is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, which is an agreement among nearly three dozen states to honor each other’s decisions to deny licenses and permits to poachers.
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