Utah officials investigate illegal killings of game animals

Cow elk in northern Utah, June 28, 2016 | File photo by Jim Shuler, Utah Division of Wilflife Resources, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A Utah wildlife expert considers wild animal poaching to be a significant problem in the Beehive State, following several incidents of game animals being killed and then left to waste.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources seeks information about the deaths of 18 geese, one cow elk and four deer, March 19, 2024 | Photo courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News

According to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, four deer were killed in the Woodland Hills area of Utah County late last year. The heads were removed from each deer, and the carcasses were left. More recently, the division discovered a cow elk and 18 geese dead in Emery County.

Capt. Chad Bettridge, law enforcement officer for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, said the hunters responsible for these killings could be charged with a felony.

“Three very different circumstances and potentially even more than that,” Bettridge said. “We are not 100% sure that all the deer in Utah County were tied together, but they were in such a location and were similar in circumstance that it does kind of feel like they were maybe done by the same people, or at least related.”

Bettridge encouraged anyone with information that could be useful to contact the division by using their law enforcement app. It allows you to send text messages, photos and GPS locations of any situation you think might be illegal. You can also use their “turn in a poacher hotline” at 800-662-3337.

Bettridge said that in the past five years, the number of animals killed illegally has ranged between 1,000 and 1,400. He added Utah is a big state and the agency does not have “an incredible amount of officers” to cover the vast landscape. When they’re fully staffed, there are about 50 officers in the field to investigate reports of animal killings.

“For example, the cow elk in Emery County, that cow elk was shot during a time that it could have been a legal season for cow elk,” Bettridge said. “However, only a small amount of the meat was taken from the carcass and everything else was left to waste, which makes it illegal, even if you had a license to legally kill that elk.”

Bettridge acknowledged the majority of hunters and fishermen are doing the right thing but said there are bad actors out there. He added the division depends on the public to help by reaching out if they come across something potentially illegal and in need of a closer look.

Written by ALEX GONZALEZ, producer for Public News Service.

Read the original article here.

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