Two new hunting laws approved by the Utah State Legislature in this year’s general session took effect on Thursday.

The first, House Bill 295, “restricts the baiting of big game animals (like deer and elk) when hunting in Utah,” according to the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.

“In a nutshell, baiting big game is illegal if your intentions are to lure an animal to an area to hunt or harvest it,” DWR Law Enforcement Captain Wyatt Bubak said on Wednesday in a press release. “Baiting wildlife can artificially distribute animals on the landscape, which can potentially result in habitat damage and increased disease transmission. There are also concerns related to the ‘fair chase’ of baiting animals when hunting.”

Bubak noted that conservation officers “will be enforcing this law during this fall’s big game hunting seasons.”

Hunters can still use bait during the summer months while they are scouting an area that they plan to hunt in the fall, but “they must remove the bait before the hunt — with enough advance time that the animal isn’t still being lured to that area,” according to the DWR.

“This is probably one of those bills that you’ve heard nothing about, that you haven’t received any emails about,” Rep. Casey Snider, R-Paradise, the sponsor of H.B. 295, told his fellow lawmakers in February, noting that the bill only makes “slight changes” to Utah’s baiting law.

The bill, which passed 63-6 in the House and 22-5 in the Senate, defines baiting as “intentionally placing food or nutrient substances to manipulate the behavior of wildlife for the purpose of hunting or attempting to harvest big game.”

Violations under the new baiting law “may result in criminal charges ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a third-degree felony, and may also lead to the suspension of one’s hunting privileges,” according to the DWR.

Any information or tips about big game hunters using bait can be reported by calling 1-800-662-3337 or through the UTDWR mobile app.

The second law, H.B. 197, prohibits the DWR from issuing a fishing or hunting license to anyone that owes at least $2,500 “on an arrearage obligation of child support based on an administrative or judicial order.”

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, includes exemptions for individuals who have “obtained a judicial order staying enforcement of the individual’s obligation on the amount in arrears.”

In February, Lisonbee told her colleagues that, as of September 2019, the Utah Office of Recovery Services has reported about $399 million in past due child support from 86,000 cases involving 112,000 children.

H.B. 197 passed 68-4 in the House and 26-1 in the Senate.

In a written statement, DWR Administrative Section Chief Kenny Johnson said the agency “recognize(s) that hunting and fishing activities help maintain family relationships, and we support any effort that will help those relationships stay intact.”

“We want individuals to be aware that this law is going into effect July 1 and want them to start making plans now so they are not caught off guard when they try to buy a hunting or fishing license, or obtaining upcoming hunting season permits,” Johnson said.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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