Here's how you can help fight poaching in Utah
Salt Lake City — Several hunting seasons are in full swing, and Utah's general-season deer hunt — arguably the state's most popular hunt — starts Oct. 17. Utah Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers are hard at work patrolling the state to protect wildlife and make sure hunters are obeying the laws.
Call the UTiP hotline to report a poaching incident: 1-800-662-DEER (3337)
From Aug. 1 to Oct. 4, conservation officers contacted 22,873 individuals and inspected the hunting licenses of 9,271 people. During those interactions, the officers detected 1,147 violations and discovered 258 illegally killed animals, including deer, elk, pronghorn, moose, Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep and fish. Of the animals killed, 83 were big game species. During that time frame, officers issued 857 citations, and they will continue to investigate other violations and turn them over to 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 Lt. Chad Bettridge said.
From Aug. 1 to Oct. 4, conservation officers have also received 423 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 they can't be everywhere.
"We need your help," Bettridge 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. If you'd like to help in the fight against illegal hunting in Utah, here's what you should do:
Get a license plate number
If you see someone who is potentially breaking Utah's wildlife laws, getting a license plate number is the most critical piece of information you can provide to conservation officers. If you're not able to get a license plate number, provide the officer with as much information as you can.
"Having a license plate number will lead us to the individual, so we can interview the person and start investigating," Bettridge 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 you saw. And, if you can give us a GPS coordinate, that can guide us quickly to the area where the possible violation occurred."
Don't confront the individual
Don't confront someone who might be committing a violation, just observe from a distance and take note of as many details as you can.
"We don't want anyone to be put in harm's way or to be in a situation that makes them uncomfortable," Bettridge said. "Report what you saw, and let us contact them."
Call the UTiP hotline to report suspicious activity
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 you witness a possible violation, and you can't remember the hotline number, do a quick internet search on your phone or look at your 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 you can't find those phone numbers, you could also call 911. However, you shouldn't call the police unless you are absolutely sure you have witnessed a poaching violation, you can't remember or find the UTiP number, and you feel the incident must be reported immediately.
"If you have a license plate number but you can't get cell reception, it's totally fine to wait and report the incident when you get home. You can even submit your report online," Bettridge said. "A license plate number will lead us directly to the suspect."
Don't call UTiP for information
Please 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," Bettridge 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."