In recent months, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) has seen a spike in poaching cases across the state. Nine cases are currently being prosecuted, with charges pending against those responsible.

One of the most high-profile cases occurred in October 2022, when a trophy bull elk was illegally killed in the La Sal Mountains in San Juan County. A witness provided information to DWR conservation officers, and it was discovered that the individual who shot the elk didn’t have a permit. The individual was identified earlier this month, and charges are currently pending.

Mule Deer Poaching Cases

Another case involved a 4-point, 28-inch trophy buck deer that was illegally harvested outside of the hunting season in Davis County in November 2021. Conservation officers were able to locate the individual responsible. This individual was prosecuted and is now ordered to pay $8,000 in restitution.

In November 2022, conservation officers seized the head of a large trophy buck deer that had been poached on the Oquirrh/Stansbury hunting unit. The buck was well known by local residents since it spent the summer months grazing on private property in the area. During the investigation, officers discovered that an individual without a hunting permit killed the deer during the late-season muzzleloader hunt. Charges are currently pending.

On Dec. 9, 2022, a concerned Utahn called the DWR’s UTiP hotline to report the possible poaching of a trophy buck deer in Emigration Canyon in Salt Lake County. The individual who submitted the report provided conservation officers with a recent photo of the buck deer when it was alive, as well as an approximate location of where the deer may have been killed and the license plate number of a vehicle seen in the area at the time of the suspected poaching. A homeowner in the area confirmed that they’d seen someone drag a dead deer behind their house on Dec. 2.

Deer Poaching Continues

DWR conservation officers contacted the owner of the vehicle that was seen in the area at the time. The individual told officers he had killed the deer on Nov. 30, the last day of the extended archery deer season. He showed them a photo of the deer and officers recognized it as the trophy deer from the photo they had received from the tip. Officers obtained a search warrant and recovered the antlers of the illegally killed trophy deer from the suspect’s home. The individual is currently facing charges.

A trophy buck deer was killed on the Paunsaugunt hunting unit in Kane County in October 2022. Upon further investigation, DWR conservation officers discovered that a non-resident had applied as a Utah resident for the highly sought-after Paunsaugunt deer permit, in an effort to increase their chances of obtaining the permit. Charges are currently pending.

“Our system in Utah is unique and tries to create a fair and equitable process that provides good opportunities for all hunters. These limited-entry and premium limited-entry units provide a very limited number of permits so they can 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.” – DWR Investigations Capt. Wade Hovinga

In a second unrelated case, another trophy deer was also illegally killed on the Paunsaugunt hunting unit in October 2021. DWR conservation officers investigated the case, and charges are currently pending.

Fraudulent Cases As Well

There were also three additional unrelated fraud cases where two trophy bull elk were killed in southeastern Utah. Then one bull elk was killed in southwestern Utah. That bull was killed by non-residents who applied for hunting permits as Utah residents. This was done to increase their chance of obtaining the permits. Charges are pending in these cases, as well.

You can read more about these cases by clicking here. Likewise, you can read more Utah hunting news by clicking here.

So, what are your thoughts on these nine cases being prosecuted? Have you ever helped catch a poacher? Let us know in the comments!

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