With hunting season underway, DWR asks for help to fight poaching

A Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officer holds evidence of an illegal killing of big game. More than 100 people have poached such animals in Utah over the past two months. Photo courtesy of UDWR

Hunting season is in full swing, and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers are hard at work patrolling the state to protect wildlife and make sure hunters are obeying the laws, according to a statement from DWR spokesperson Faith Jolley.

From Aug. 1 to Oct. 13, conservation officers contacted 35,619 individuals and inspected the hunting licenses of 11,425 people. During those interactions, officers detected 1,215 violations and discovered 102 illegally killed big game animals, including deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bison and black bear. So far, 918 citations have been issued, and other violations will continue to be investigated or handled in the court system.

“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,” DWR Capt. J Shirley said.

Conservation officers have also received 283 calls to the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher (UTiP) hotline, which they say is incredibly valuable in helping them investigate poaching cases. DWR officers patrol huge swaths of land in Utah, and they can’t be everywhere.

“We need your help,” Shirley said. “Please keep your eyes and ears open and report suspicious activity to us. Working together, we can enforce wildlife laws and keep our recreating public safe.”

While wildlife violations can happen any time of the year, a spike typically occurs during the fall hunting seasons. To help:

Get a license plate number

Getting a license plate number is the most critical piece of information to provide to conservation officers. If a witness isn’t able to get a license plate number, provide the officer with as much information as possible.

“Having a license plate number will lead us to the individual so we can interview the person and start investigating,” Shirley said. “Other helpful details include the type and color of the vehicle the person is driving, how many people were involved and a description of what you saw. “And, if you can give us a GPS coordinate, that can guide us quickly to the area where the possible violation occurred.”

Don’t confront the individual

Don’t confront someone who might be committing a violation, just observe from a distance and take note of as many details as possible.

“We don’t want anyone to be put in harm’s way or to be in a situation that makes them uncomfortable,” Shirley said. “Report what you saw, and let us contact them.”

Call the UTiP hotline

Calling the UTiP hotline is the best way to get information to officers. The hotline, 1-800-662-DEER (3337), is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, according to a DWR press release.

Another option is to call the nearest local police dispatch. Those numbers can also be found online. Witnesses can also call 911. However, they shouldn’t call police unless they are absolutely sure they have witnessed a poaching violation, they can’t remember or find the UTiP number, and they feel the incident must be reported immediately.

“If you have a license plate number but you can’t get cell reception, it’s totally fine to wait and report the incident when you get home,” Shirley said. “A license plate number will lead us directly to the suspect.”