THE GREAT OUTDOORS — Most of Utah's big game hunts are wrapping up, but that doesn't mean poachers are out of the woods.
Poaching is a serious problem in the Beehive State, and in 2015, 1,375 fish and wildlife illegally taken in 2015, totaling a statutory value of $737,220. From trophy mule deer like the infamous "Rabbi" to pheasants, poachers take a variety of local animals illegally.
But what problems specifically does poaching present to those who love Utah's great outdoors? And if you happen upon a poached animal or see poaching taking place, what can you do about it?
Why is it a problem?
If you don't hunt, it's a valid question to wonder why poaching is such a big problem.
Utah's hunts — from cottontail rabbits to black bears — are administered and monitored by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The number of hunting permits given out each year is based on what wildlife biologists determine is a healthy level of predation.
So when poachers harvest animals illegally, they cause significant short-term, and potentially long-term, damage to the health of Utah's wildlife.
On top of that, poaching takes opportunities away from honest hunters — those who put in for tags, buy preference points and spend days scouting for their hunts.
Over 1,000 poaching cases are reported each year in Utah, according to the Herald-Journal News. And it is estimated that only 5 percent of all poaching incidents are ever brought to the attention of proper authorities.
How do I report it?
If you encounter a poached animal, you have a few options to report the incident. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources maintains an online portal to report poaching, in addition to a hotline that's managed 24 hours a day, 365 days per year. You can dial *DEER from your cellphone or call 1-800-662-3337.
When you report a poaching incident, wildlife officials have a few suggestions:
- Try to get as much information about the poacher as possible. If you see them in or around their vehicle, a license plate number is especially helpful. "Having a license plate number will lead us to the individual so we can interview the person and start investigating," said Trevor Doman, a DWR conservation officer in northern Utah.
- Doman also recommends that, no matter how well-intentioned you may be, to not confront poachers. Those types of situations can escalate quickly, and the last thing you want to have happen is for anyone to get hurt.