Utah again proposes a ban on trail cameras during hunting season after pause on idea

An image of bucks eating grass on a mountain in Utah captured from a trail camera in August 2021. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing a ban on using trail camera information during the big game hunting season.

An image of bucks eating grass on a mountain in Utah captured from a trail camera in August 2021. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is proposing a ban on using trail camera information during the big game hunting season. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)



Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — State wildlife biologists are again proposing a ban on the use of trail cameras in hunting a few months after they pulled the proposal to further survey hunters after some initial backlash.

The plan, proposed by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Tuesday, calls for a ban on trail cameras or any other non-handheld transmitting devices used for the purposes of hunting between July 31 and Jan. 31, annually. That includes any device that tracks the heat or motion of an animal, according to Covy Jones, the big game coordinator for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

If approved, the sale or purchase of any camera information, including images or data, for the purposes of hunting would also be banned. Night-vision devices to locate or attempt to locate a big game animal would be prohibited 48 hours before and 48 hours after any big game hunt, as well.

The Utah Wildlife Board is scheduled to vote on the proposals early next year. If they vote to approve, it would go into place ahead of the 2022 hunting season.

The division first proposed the plan in late August, saying that about 62% of the more than 2,000 Utah hunters surveyed opposed the idea of using transmitting trail camera footage in real-time during the hunting season. Members of the Utah Wildlife Board voted to pull the proposal a day after it was announced to allow for the division to survey the plan to more people.

The results of the new survey, conducted last month, show most hunters still agree with the proposed changes.

In a video presentation published Monday, wildlife division Capt. Wyatt Bubak said 52% of hunters in the new survey said the state should regulate the use of trail cameras while 38% opposed. Another 11% didn't care either way.

Half of the respondents said they agreed that trail cameras impacted the "fair chase" of animals, defined as the "ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful" pursuit of an animal, according to the division. A little more than one-third said they didn't believe that was a problem.

While half supported the use of internal storage of trail cameras, more than two-thirds said they opposed the practice of transmitting trail camera data during big game hunting seasons. Only one-fifth of hunters surveyed supported that practice.

"A strong majority of the population opposes the use of these types of cameras for big game hunting," Bubak said.

Two-thirds of respondents also supported a regulation on the practice of selling trail camera information, which is something that the division officials say has become more popular in recent years.

"One of the things we had the highest public support for was the (proposal) to prohibit the buying and selling of trail camera data, including images, location information, time and data — anything media or location information captured with that," Jones added.

Meanwhile, more than half of the respondents said they supported a regulation on how many trail cameras can be used. More than two-thirds supported the idea of regulating a limit on how many cameras a guide or outfitter can use, as well.

The average of surveyed indicated placing a limit of five cameras used for internal storage among individuals and six for guides and outfitters. It was zero for transmitting cameras in both categories.

Those who responded were split — 44% in favor, 41% against — on if private land hunters should have fewer trail camera regulations than public land. They were also split — 47% against, 40% in favor — on if regulations should be stricter on public lands.

The average response of questions on trail camera survey conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in October. The average respondent opposed the practice of transmitting trail cameras during hunts.
The average response of questions on trail camera survey conducted by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in October. The average respondent opposed the practice of transmitting trail cameras during hunts. (Photo: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

Bubak explained the division randomly selected 10,000 people who had applied for Utah big-game hunts over the past five years. Most received multiple requests just because they had changed contact information.

In all, a little more than 2,300 hunters responded, which Bubak said "far exceeded" the threshold needed for a valid survey. Those who responded represented a population very similar to the demographics of the average hunter in the state.

About 41% of respondents said they had used trail cameras for hunting in the last five years. Of those hunters, 93% said they used them for scouting wildlife for hunting. Most use multiple cameras; in fact, the average was about 4.8 cameras while 11 respondents said they used over 30 cameras.

The proposed ban only applies to hunting. Private landowners can continue to use devices year-round to track trespassing or to monitor agricultural operations. But the devices still can't be used to track animals for hunting even on private land.

Municipalities participating in the Urban Deer Program may also continue to use the devices.

Meanwhile, 2,083 hunters responded to a survey on emerging technology that the division conducted earlier this year. That survey found more than 70% opposed the use of vision-related technology in hunting.

The division is also proposing that bison hunters review educational information about shot placement before the next bison hunt. The Utah Wildlife Board requested the change earlier this year, citing safety concerns.

"Making a clean, lethal shot — on your first attempt — is preferable to dealing with a wounded bison or trying to find one that's run off with the herd," the division states on its website.

The proposal was proposed in August and also postponed along with the trail camera changes.

The division opened public comment on all its proposals Tuesday. Comments can be submitted online through the division's website between now and 11:59 p.m. on Dec. 27.

The Utah Wildlife Board will vote on the proposed changes during a meeting scheduled for Jan. 4, 2022.

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