Illegal wildlife killings in Utah decline in 2023, violations spike with newer reporting options

UTAH – The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has recently reported that 1,056 fish and wildlife were illegally killed in Utah in 2023.

While a slight decrease from the number of fish and wildlife illegally killed in 2022, the DWR estimates that the total combined value of the animals killed last year added up to over $619,000.

“Each animal that is illegally killed in our state is one less animal for legal hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and everyday residents to enjoy,” DWR Capt. Chad Bettridge said. “Poachers steal our ability to enjoy Utah’s wildlife.”

Some of the animals illegally killed in 2023 include 133 deer, 23 of which were classified as “trophy” animals; 150 elk, 31 of which were classified as “trophy” animals; 11 bison; seven bears; four moose; and 485 fish.

The remaining illegally killed wildlife included small game animals, waterfowl and a variety of other wildlife species.

The total amount of illegally killed wildlife decreased from 2022, which saw 1,283 wild animals valued at more than $609,000 killed. In 2021, 1,153 animals valued at more than $610,000 were illegally harvested.

In 2023, there were 4,567 violations issued, surpassing the 4,074 citations recorded in 2022. The majority of citations last year were related to individuals engaging in fishing or hunting without a valid license.

While there were more citations issued in 2023 compared to 2022, there were less suspensions of hunting or fishing licenses, with only 46 suspensions compared to 66 in 2022 or 54 in 2021.

Currently, the Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) employs five K-9 officers tasked with investigating diverse wildlife cases. These officers play a crucial role in locating illegally killed wildlife, uncovering discarded or concealed evidence, and assisting in various tasks.

In the year 2023, the DWR’s K-9 unit contributed to the investigation of 114 cases across the state.

“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. Working together, we can enforce wildlife laws to maintain healthy populations, and to also keep those recreating outdoors safe.”

If you come across illegal or suspicious wildlife activities, there are several reporting options available:

  • Dial the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline at 1-800-662-3337. (Operational 24/7, this hotline provides the fastest means to report wildlife violations.)
  • Utilize the UTDWR Law Enforcement app.
  • Send a text message to officers at 847411.
  • Report incidents online through the DWR website.

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