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WANSHIP, Summit County — An investigation conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wrapped up Wednesday after conservation officers determined that dead deer found near Rockport Reservoir had plastic bags and latex gloves in their remains.
The deer were discovered near the Three Mile Landfill west of Rockport Reservoir and were initially reported by Carrie Prevedel, who also posted photos on Facebook. She discovered at least 30 deer, all with chewed-up bags and medical gloves in their bodies.
“During the winter months the deer are scavenging through the landfill,” Prevedel said in the Facebook post. “Some of the pictures show the deer feeding through garbage sacks. You can’t tell me they’re dying from winter conditions … They are dying from ingesting plastic!”
The Division of Wildlife Resources pursued an investigation into the cause of death of the deer, according to a news release by the organization. They were able to confirm that the deer had the plastic materials in their systems and spoke to two witnesses who said they saw deer eating plastic bags at the landfill throughout the winter. However, as the animals were too decomposed, they could not submit samples of their organs to see whether the plastic actually caused the deaths, the news release said.
Conservation officers learned throughout the investigation that employees at the nearby landfill spread 6 inches of dust every evening over newly dumped trash, according to the news release. Not only were wet and windy conditions likely sweeping much of the dust away, but the landfill hadn’t stockpiled enough dust this past winter, and once the supply ran out they stopped placing it over the trash.
Once the dust is gone, it’s very easy for deer to access trash in the landfill, according to the news release. The operators of the landfill have been cooperative and have come up with a new solution.
The landfill will be covering newly dumped trash with 6 inches of clay rather than dust, the news release said. It won’t wash or blow away during extreme weather conditions and it will be harder for deer to get through.
The landfill owners hope the clay will help resolve the issue, the news release said. They will also be meeting to discuss the deer deaths further with the Division of Wildlife Resources and Department of Environmental Quality.