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Number of animals illegally killed in Utah increases for 2nd consecutive year

Number of animals illegally killed in Utah increases for 2nd consecutive year

(Division of Wildlife Resources)


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SALT LAKE CITY — For the second year in a row, the number of wildlife illegally killed in Utah has increased, causing the state to lose thousands of dollars in revenue.

Division of Wildlife Resources Capt. Mitch Lane said it is often difficult to compare statistics of poaching and illegally killed animals year-to-year because it depends on how poaching is defined and there are many forms of poaching involving various types of species and wildlife. However, the most recent numbers indicate that the number of illegally killed wildlife in Utah has already increased by roughly 4 percent since 2014.

In 2014, there were 1,320 illegally taken fish and wildlife, totaling a statutory value of $563,686, Lane said. To date, there have been 1,375 fish and wildlife illegally taken in 2015, totaling a statutory value of $737,220.

Fish had the highest number of illegally killed species with 779 fish illegally taken in 2015, an increase from 617 in 2014, Lane said. Mule deer were the second-highest illegally killed species with 188 non-trophy deer and 15 trophy deer killed in 2015. In 2014, 166 non-trophy deer and nine trophy deer were illegally taken. The number of illegally killed elk also increased with 77 non-trophy and 30 trophy killed in 2014, and 114 non-trophy and 43 trophy illegally killed in 2015.

A trophy mule deer is defined as a buck with an outside antler measurement of 24 inches or greater while a trophy bull elk has six points on at least one side, Lane said. Poaching a trophy bull elk results in a minimum of $8,000 in restitution.

Number of illegally killed animals in 2014 vs. 2015:
2014 numbers:
  • 1,320 total fish and wildlife
  • 617 fish
  • 166 non-trophy mule deer
  • 9 trophy mule deer
  • 77 non-trophy elk
2015 numbers:
  • 1,375 fish and wildlife
  • 779 fish
  • 188 non-trophy mule deer
  • 15 trophy mule deer
  • 114 non-trophy elk
  • 43 trophy elk

By January 2015, the number of animals poached in Utah had increased by more than 30 percent over the past two years, the Associated Press reported.

Lane said it is hard to track poachers because tracking down how the animal was killed or who did it isn't easy.

"The numbers for 2015 include all wildlife taken outside of the laws, rules or regulations, whether it be intentional, accidental or due to negligence or recklessness," Lane said. "Just because someone violates a wildlife law, doesn't necessarily make them a poacher. So, while the number of illegally taken wildlife increased, the number of poaching incidents may or may not have increased. When poaching does increase, it is sometimes because the resource (or number of animals available) also increased."

While it is likely that unlawful harvesting occurred more frequently, Lane said the number increase could also be explained by the fact that DWR had more district conservation officers in the field in 2015 than in 2014.

Lane said it also hard to say how Utah's poaching numbers compare to other states across the U.S. because other DWR agencies often have different methods of how they track and report the numbers and also have different animal species. So comparing the statistics on a nationwide level is like "comparing apples and oranges," Lane said.

However, despite the reason behind the increase in illegal killings or how Utah's numbers stack up against other states, Lane said the illegal activity harms everyone.

"The wildlife in the state belongs to everyone," he said. "The numerous and varied wildlife in the state add greatly to the quality of life we enjoy. When someone takes wildlife illegally, they, in essence, are stealing it from everyone else who might otherwise enjoy it or benefit from it."

Anyone with information about the illegal killing of any Utah wildlife can call the UTIP hotline at 1-800-662-3337 or email the information to toturninapoacher@utah.gov. Rewards are often available for information leading to the successful prosecution of wildlife crimes and tipsters can remain anonymous.

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Faith Heaton Jolley

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