UTAH — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources investigated and is currently prosecuting nine cases of illegally killed ‘trophy’ elk and deer.
While most hunters follow the rules and fulfill a key role in helping fund conservation and habitat restoration efforts across the state, poaching remains a problem. These nine cases are only a few examples, but they do serve as a reminder that laws and regulations are in place for the reason as DWR works to maintain a fair hunting system while preserving Utah’s wildlife.
The idea of ‘trophy’ can have many definitions, but in the Utah state code, it is defined as a buck deer with an outside antler measurement of 24 inches or greater and an elk bull having six points on at least one side of its antlers. As trophy animals carry a higher value, any of these animals that are killed illegally are typically classified as felony-level violations. Throughout 2022, 23 trophy deer and 29 trophy elk were killed illegally. When considering poaching incidents as a whole, the number adds up to 1,283 wild animals and fish killed illegally, amounting to a value of over $609,000.
For trophy big game permits, the state uses a draw system. With each application for a limited-entry permit not awarded after drawing, the hunter will earn bonus points that raise the likelihood of a future successful draw. Some permits are easier to acquire than others, while others can take years and amount to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Our system in Utah is unique and tries to create a fair and equitable process that provides good opportunities for all hunters,” said Wade Hovinga, DWR Investigations captain. “These limited-entry and premium limited-entry units provide a very limited number of permits to provide a quality big game hunt. When someone commits license fraud to cheat and obtain one of these desired permits illegally, they’re stealing the opportunity from a legitimate hunter who has, in some cases, waited over 25 years hoping to draw one of these permits. We need and rely heavily on tips and information from the public to help us identify these poaching incidents.”
In many cases, these tips are what make the difference in helping to protect wildlife while maintaining a safe and fair hunting system. In the case of a poaching incident in Emigration Canyon, a concerned citizen notified officers using the DWR UTiP hotline. The information gathered from that tip led to an investigation in which a suspect was identified and now faces wanton destruction felony charges.
To report any wildlife-related crime, the public is encouraged to contact DWR Conservation Officers in one of the following ways: by calling the UTiP Hotline at 800-662-3337, using the UTDWR Law Enforcement app , by texting 847411 or through the DWR website .
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