SALT LAKE CITY — The number of wildlife killed in 2020 dipped slightly from 2019, but wildlife violations jumped 35% and citations issued for wanton wildlife destruction and other illegal activities outdoors increased 55% from the previous year, state wildlife officials said Monday.
A total of 1,056 animals were illegally killed in Utah throughout 2020, which is 24 fewer than 2019, according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. The number of animals killed in 2020 was also over 100 more than reported in 2018.
The division didn't provide a breakdown of how many of every species were illegally killed. The overall value of the animals illegally killed throughout the year was listed at more than $379,000, which was a slight decrease from $406,500 the previous year.
The exact number of illegally killed animals from 2020 could increase if new cases are discovered to have occurred. For example, the division reported 30 more illegally killed animals in 2019 after an initial poaching report released in early January 2020 listed 1,050.
While the number of illegally killed animals remained relatively the same, the number of violations observed and citations issued rose dramatically. State wildlife officials reported 4,760 total wildlife violations in 2020, which resulted in 773 citations. That's compared to 3,525 violations and 499 citations in 2019.
Wildlife violations range in severity usually based on the type of animal killed. Every animal illegally killed in Utah results in a restitution fee, which ranges from $5 for unprotected creatures to as much as $30,000 for bighorn sheep. More severe cases can also result in additional fines, the loss of hunting and fishing privileges across most of the U.S. and even jail time.
Thirty-five people were stripped of hunting or fishing privileges in 2020, DWR officials said. That's a drop from 84 in 2019.
"Each animal that is illegally killed in our state is one less animal for legal hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and everyday citizens to enjoy," DWR Capt. Wyatt Bubak said, in a prepared statement. "Poachers steal our ability to enjoy Utah's wildlife."
State officials pointed out that many violations are committed by people who didn't know they were violating state fishing and hunting laws. They encourage all anglers and hunters to review laws before heading out on their next trip.
Anyone who spots poaching or knows of any information about specific cases is encouraged to call the state's anti-poaching hotline at 1-800-662-3337. They can also report it online through the state's website.