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Utah Sees Uptick in Illegal Wildlife Killing: 1,283 Animals Poached in 2022

ElkOf the 1,283 animals poached in Utah in 2022, 134 were elk; (photo/Shutterstock)
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This year, over 130 more animals fell victim to poaching in Utah compared to 2021, according to the Utah Wildlife Board.

What do five moose, 14 cougars, and 134 elk have in common? 

Poachers killed all of them in Utah in 2022, according to a new annual report from the state’s wildlife officials.

Those numbers contribute to part of the 1,283 animals poached in Utah this year. That’s a significant increase in illegal take from 2021, when the state saw 1,153 wild animals killed by poachers, and an even bigger jump from 2020, when Utah lost 1,079 animals.

Other animals killed by poachers in 2022 include 179 deer, 782 fish, a mountain goat, a bear, and many other small game. The total combined value of the wildlife illegally killed last year was about $609,561, officials said.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) wants to remind the public how to report poaching incidents to try and address the problem (more on that below).

“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 in a news release. “Poachers steal our ability to enjoy Utah’s wildlife.”

Utah wildlife
Utah wants your help in tracking down poachers; (photo/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)

Utah Cracks Down on Poaching

Utah wildlife officials issued a total of 4,074 citations in 2022, a slight decrease from the 4,394 citations issued in 2021.

Last year, most citations involved individuals caught fishing without a valid license.

In 2022, 66 people lost their hunting or fishing privileges in Utah due to suspension, compared to 54 suspensions in 2021 and just 35 in 2020. In 2019, officials suspended hunting or fishing privileges for 84 people.

The increase in poaching in Utah may reflect a broader trend of increased illegal hunting around the world during the pandemic.

According to a UK-sponsored study, research shows that poaching increased worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increase was “incentivized largely by economic hardship and opportunities presented by a reduction in the capacity for anti-poaching enforcement and reduced numbers of tourists, whose presence tends to deter poachers,” the study said. “In the long term, poaching and trafficking are likely to return to pre-pandemic levels.”


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Una publicación compartida por Utah DWR (@utahdwr)

How to Report Poaching

There are a few ways that you can report a potential poaching incident in Utah.

  • Call the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline at 1-800-662-3337. The UTiP hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s the quickest way to report a wildlife violation, officials said. Hunters can also find the number on hunting and fishing licenses.
  • Use the UTDWR Law Enforcement app.
  • Text officers at 847411.
  • Report online through the website for the Utah DWR.

Utah wildlife officials implemented the texting option in 2021. Officials received 567 tips that year, many of which resulted in successful investigations and prosecutions of wildlife-related crimes. The number of tips nearly doubled in 2022 to 1,010.

“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.”

Not all wildlife violations are committed intentionally. To learn more about common illegal hunting and fishing mistakes, visit the DWR website.


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