How to help fight poaching in Utah

Wildlife officers need help to catch poachers in Utah. Be observant, get license plate numbers, don’t confront possible violators, but do call the UTiP hotline to give information to officers. Call 1-800-662-DEER (3337). (Photo courtesy of Utah DWR)

SALT LAKE CITY— Hunting season is in full swing, and Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) conservation officers are hard at work patrolling the state to protect wildlife and make sure hunters are obeying the laws.

From Aug. 1 to Oct. 13, conservation officers contacted 35,619 individuals and inspected the hunting licenses of 11,425 people.

During those interactions, the officers detected 1,215 violations and discovered 102 illegally killed big game animals, including deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, bison and black bear. So far, 918 citations have been issued, and other violations will continue to be investigated or handled in the court system.

“Hunters need to take the responsibility of knowing the law, having a current hunting or combination license and knowing what species and areas their permits allow them to hunt,” DWR Capt. J Shirley said.

Conservation officers have also received 283 calls to the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher (UTiP) hotline, which they say is incredibly valuable in helping them investigate poaching cases. DWR officers patrol huge swaths of land in Utah and can’t be everywhere.

“We need your help,” Shirley said. “Please keep your eyes and ears open and report suspicious activity to us. Working together, we can enforce wildlife laws and keep our recreating public safe.”

While wildlife violations can happen any time of the year, a spike typically occurs during the fall hunting seasons. For anyone who would like to help in the fight against illegal hunting in Utah, here’s what to do:

Get license plate

Getting a license plate number is the most critical piece of information people can provide to conservation officers. If not able to get a license plate number, then provide the officer with as much information as possible.

“Having a license plate number will lead us to the individual so we can interview the person and start investigating,” Shirley said. “Other helpful details include the type and color of the vehicle the person was driving, how many people were involved and a description of what was seen.”

“And,” she says, “If you can give us a GPS coordinate, that can guide us quickly to the area where the possible violation occurred.”

Don’t confront

Don’t confront someone who might be committing a violation, just observe from a distance and take note of as many details as possible.

“We don’t want anyone to be put in harm’s way or to be in a situation that makes them uncomfortable,” Shirley said. “Report what you saw, and let us contact them.”

Call UTiP hotline

Calling the UTiP hotline is the best way to get information to officers. The hotline — 1-800-662-DEER (3337) — is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If a possible violation is witnessed and the hotline number can’t be remembered, do a quick internet search on a phone or look at a hunting or fishing license — the number is printed on it.

Another option is to call the nearest local police dispatch. Those numbers can also be found online. If those phone numbers can’t be found, then a person could also call 911.

However, people shouldn’t call police unless they are absolutely sure to have witnessed a poaching violation, or can’t remember or find the UTiP number, and feel the incident must be reported immediately.

“If you have a license plate number but can’t get cell reception, it’s totally fine to wait and report the incident when reception is available or back at home,” Shirley said. “A license plate number will usually lead us directly to the suspect.”

Don’t call UTiP for info

People need to remember that the UTiP hotline is not an information line. Only call it to report possible poaching and other wildlife-related crimes.

“Every time our officers receive a UTiP call, even if it isn’t related to a wildlife crime, they have to file a follow-up report,” Shirley said.

“Filing the report takes time away that could have been spent fighting wildlife crime in Utah. Please call the UTiP line only to report wildlife crimes. If you’re simply looking for information, call a DWR office.”