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Not every wildlife sighting needs reporting, experts say

Dec 1, 2021, 9:09 AM | Updated: 9:59 am
report a wildlife sighting...
Deer in Springville after snowfall forced them out of the mountains. Photo from DWR.

SALT LAKE CITY — You might be seeing more wildlife in city areas during the winter when animals are searching for food. But when should you report a wildlife sighting of deer, moose, bears, or cougars? 

The Utah Department of Wildlife Resources contributed to this report on how to stay safe around wildlife this winter. 

Not every wildlife sighting needs reporting

The DWR explained that Utah wildlife commonly migrates to city areas to look for food. Cougars prey mostly on deer, so they follow the deer into the valleys. 

It may seem like these types of sightings are increasing. Here are some reasons why according to the DWR:

  • Increased construction in the foothill and canyon areas, infringing on animal habitats. 
  • Increased use of camera doorbells and security cameras, which detect previously unseen animals. 

Don’t get close to the animals

The DWR advised keeping your distance from animals for both your safety and the wellbeing of the animal. 

“Getting too close to a wild animal can cause the animal to feel threatened,

“If it feels threatened, it will sometimes act aggressively to protect itself,” said DWR Law Enforcement Section Chief Wyatt Bubak.

Bubak also explained that chasing wildlife can eat away at precious reserves of energy the animals need to survive. 

“Constantly harassing or chasing species such as moose and deer cause them to use up some of the essential fat reserves and energy they need to survive,” explained Section Chief Bubak. 

Don’t feed the animals

Feeding animals is highly discouraged for several reasons

This can spread disease among wildlife and harm them by giving them food not naturally found in their winter diets. 

Reporting sightings 

Cougars 

Cougars are scattered throughout the state. They’re usually in the foothill and canyon areas but can come down in the valleys particularly in the wintertime. 

Report a cougar sighting if:

  • It has killed something in a neighborhood or yard
  • The animal acts aggressively
  • It appears nearby on your security cameras more than one time. 
    • One-time sightings may mean the cougar has already moved through the area, meaning conservation officers won’t be able to find it. 

Bears

Black Bears are the only species of bear currently found in Utah. Bears are usually hibernating from November through March, so winter sightings are unlikely. They can be found in similar areas to cougars: foothills, canyons, and similar terrain. 

Report a bear sighting if:

  • It acts aggressively
  • The bear gets into trash or fruit trees
  • It causes property damage
  • The animal has wandered into lower-elevation areas within city limits or in densely populated places

Moose

Moose are commonly found in foothill areas as well. 

Report a moose sighting if:

  • It has wandered into lower-elevation or city areas
  • It has become aggressive
    • Moose can get aggressive around dogs in particular

Avoid approaching moose or trying to herd them out of yards or roads. Call DWR to help safely relocate the animal. 

You never know where moose will show up in the winter. This one visited Provo in 2016. DWR biologists shot it with a tranquilizer dart. It’ll be asleep soon. Photo from DWR.

Deer

Report a deer sighting only if it’s hit and killed by a vehicle in a neighborhood or is found dead in a yard or park. In these cases, contact your nearest DWR office to remove it

Buck deer may be aggressive during breeding season in November. 

Simply sighting a deer in an urban area isn’t cause to call DWR. 

You can learn more about the deer protocol from the DWR here.

Photo from DWR

Birds of prey

You may see hawks, eagles, and the like on the side of the road. 

These sitting birds may seem injured, but they’re often resting after eating and can’t fly for a short period. 

Report a bird of prey sighting if:

  • It’s at risk of being hit by a vehicle
  • It has an obvious injury

Wolves

Grey wolves were an endangered species until January 4, 2021. They’re now managed under a statewide management plan

Currently, no known wolf packs exist in Utah, but wolves can be found in various locations throughout the state. 

Report any potential wolf sightings as soon as possible to the DWR to help them better manage the wolves in Utah. 

Safety first

If you are ever injured from wildlife, report it to the nearest DWR office

For other information about wildlife safety tips, see the Wild Aware Utah website

All information from this report is from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. 


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Not every wildlife sighting needs reporting, experts say