SALT LAKE CITY — Two suspected poachers are in jail after a tip to the state's hotline generated information to go after a "major poaching ring," according to wildlife officials.
"We're happy our officers caught these individuals before they killed any more deer," said Capt. Tony Wood with the state Division of Wildlife Resources.
Jarod Birrell of Magna, and Balenda Gutierrez of Pleasant Grove, were booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on suspicion of third-degree felony poaching. Investigators believe the pair are linked to the poaching of at least 20 deer throughout the state.
The investigation led to division officers setting up outside a Murray business Dec. 12 and also staking out a house in Magna.
When Birrell and Gutierrez arrived at the Murray business, according to the division, officers found a trophy buck that had been poached just a few hours before. The couple was arrested.
Wood said the buck was taken on a general-season hunting area near Hurricane in southern Utah. Its antlers measured nearly 30 inches wide and one antler beam had five points on it. The other beam had four points.
"A legal hunter would have been thrilled to take this deer next fall," he said.
Wood said the investigation is continuing and that "this case is bigger than these two individuals."
Anyone with information related to the recent poaching activity is asked to call 1-800-662-3337.