ST. GEORGE — Three men may be facing felony charges after allegedly being caught poaching a trophy deer in Iron County.
The men were caught when a witness reported suspicious behavior to the Division of Wildlife Resources poaching hotline on Aug. 20, spokesperson Faith Jolley said.
The witness reported seeing a group of people using spotlights in the woods in the Pine Valley unit in Iron County around 3 a.m.
DWR officers responded to the scene and made contact with the men and found a buck deer that had been killed using archery equipment. The deer was seized by DWR officers.
The suspects’ names have not yet been released, but they were identified as being from Washington County.
“We know who they are, but we’re not releasing their names yet until official charges are filed,” Jolley said.
The DWR completed its investigation and submitted the information to the Iron County Attorney’s Office, who will be the ones to decide what charges to file.
Because the deer was a buck with antlers measuring 24.5 inches in length, its illegal killing is considered a felony offense and could result in an $8,000 fine, restitution and the suspension of their hunting licenses nationwide, according to the DWR.
“It kind of goes off of the animal’s species and just how much it’s worth, is kind of how they decide if it’s a misdemeanor or felony charged,” Jolley said. “The bigger the animal, it has higher monetary value. Because this one was a 4 by 4 buck and it measured 24.5 inches, it would be considered a trophy deer, so that does increase its monetary value.”
Poaching causes a number of issues. It can make managing for a healthy herd more difficult when the DWR doesn’t know exactly how many deer there are and how many hunting permits should be issued. Poachers also often waste wildlife by removing parts of the animal and leaving the rest, according to the DWR.
“When somebody hunts outside of the season or illegally harvests without a permit like that, it can possibly throw off that balance,” Jolley said. “And so we regulate hunting for the health of the animals, but also just to give law-abiding Utahns that opportunity to hunt these animals.”
The DWR typically sees several poaching cases each year and often relies on the public’s help to report suspicious behavior.
“If you see any kind of suspicious hunting activity, always feel free to report it through our poaching hotline. That’s something that we definitely take seriously and we are always working to enforce legal hunting in Utah,” Jolley said.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.