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MOUNT CARMEL, Kane County — State wildlife officials are asking for the public’s help for information related to a bighorn sheep ram that was illegally killed on a popular ATV trail in southern Utah last month.
In a statement Tuesday, Utah Division Wildlife Resources officials said the ram’s carcass was located on the main Barracks ATV trail near Mount Carmel Junction on Oct. 20. Mount Carmel Junction is about a dozen miles east of Zion National Park.
According to wildlife authorities, a bullet went through both of the ram’s lungs and exited the left side of the animal. The carcass was then left for waste.
Someone found guilty of poaching can face fines, cost of restitution, loss of hunting privileges or even jail time.
DWR spokeswoman Faith Heaton Jolley explained that the ram wasn't determined to be a trophy animal, which means the minimum restitution fine for killing the ram is $1,000, according to Utah law. Had the division deemed it was a trophy bighorn, the minimum restitution would be $30,000 — triple the amount of any other animal in the state.
The poaching case comes as the state works to improve bighorn populations in the state. There are believed to be about 4,150 total bighorn sheep currently in Utah, according to Jace Taylor, bighorn sheep and mountain goat biologist for DWR. That number has steadily risen since 1996, but the agency hopes to double the number of bighorn sheep in the state in the future.
In fact, the agency relocated 51 sheep from Nevada to an area of the Mineral Mountains, west of Beaver, in late October to help restore desert bighorn sheep populations in that area.
The ram poaching incident happened around the same time a bull elk was illegally killed near state Route 12, about nine miles east of Escalante, Garfield County, in southern Utah. The elk was believed to have been killed sometime between Oct. 19 and Oct. 22, wildlife officials said. It’s unclear if the cases are in any way related.
Both cases are a part of 157 big game animals illegally killed from Aug. 2 through Friday morning, Jolley said. That means more than 50 poaching cases have been reported since the division last reported numbers on Oct. 16. Of the 157 illegally killed animals, nearly half have been deer. Another 52 elk, 12 antelope and seven bears have been illegally killed since Aug. 2, Jolley added.
Anyone with information about either the elk or bighorn sheep case, or any other poaching case is encouraged to call DWR’s poaching information hotline at 1-800-662-3337.