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Poaching up 11% in 2022, Utah wildlife officials say

A pair of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources law enforcement vehicles parked in the state. The division reports there were just under 1,300 wildlife animals illegally killed in the state in 2022.

A pair of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources law enforcement vehicles parked in the state. The division reports there were just under 1,300 wildlife animals illegally killed in the state in 2022. (Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)


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SALT LAKE CITY — A little less than 1,300 animals were illegally killed in Utah last year, representing an 11% increase in year-over-year cases, state wildlife officials said Thursday.

However, fewer big game animals were killed in 2022. There was also a decrease in citations issued to hunters and anglers.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reports that the monetary value of the animals killed reached $609,561, a slight decrease from $610,000 in 2021. Fish accounted for 782 of the animals illegally killed last year, followed by 179 deer and 134 elk.

Deer and elk cases range in severity based on antler size or antler points, which determines whether or not it is a big game. Big game poaching cases can be upgraded to a felony and with a steeper restitution cost.

The agency adds that 14 cougars, five moose, one bear and one mountain goat were also killed illegally in 2022. The remaining 167 animals were either classified as waterfowl, small game animals or other wildlife species.

"Each animal that is illegally killed in our state is one less animal for legal hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and everyday residents to enjoy," Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Capt. Chad Bettridge said in a statement. "Poachers steal our ability to enjoy Utah's wildlife."

Overall, 4,074 citations were issued to hunters and anglers in 2022, a 7% decrease from 2021. Most citations were issued to people who fished without a license, resulting in the uptick of illegally taken fish, according to the division. The agency notes that there were also many cases where someone did not know they were violating a law.

But 66 people had their hunting or fishing licenses suspended in Utah, too, which was a slight increase from 54 in 2021 and 35 the year before that. Since Utah is a member of the Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact, the suspensions mean a violator is also unable to hunt or fish in all other U.S. states except for Hawaii, which is not a member of the compact.

The division also said it received 1,010 poaching-related tips in 2022, a major increase from 567 in 2021 as it creates better ways for Utahns to report potential cases. The division gets tips for poaching cases through its hotline (1-800-662-3337), texts (sent to 847411), on its website and the law enforcement app it launched in 2021.

"Our officers can't be everywhere at once, so we need your help," Bettridge said. "Please keep your eyes and ears open and report any suspicious wildlife-related activity to us."

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Carter Williams is an award-winning reporter who covers general news, outdoors, history and sports for KSL.com. He previously worked for the Deseret News. He is a Utah transplant by the way of Rochester, New York.

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