DWR says deer, elk and fish among wildlife most commonly poached in Utah

Sep 13, 2023, 9:00 PM | Updated: Sep 15, 2023, 1:34 pm

Dogs chasing wildlife...

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says deer, elk and fish are the most common wildlife to be poached in the state.Bull Elk in Utah. Photos courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

SALT LAKE CITY — On, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced Tuesday 173 wildlife animals had been illegally killed since Aug. 1. While the DWR says most of those were fish, there were 15 big-game animals that were poached.

Capt. Chad Bettridge of the DWR law enforcement talked to KSL NewsRadio about what animals are being poached and the potential penalties. 


Above all else, Bettridge says Utah has a lot of animals to hunt and a lot of fishing opportunities as well. But a license for both is required in the state.

“But if don’t have those things or you don’t follow the rules that are in place, then you have illegally taken that animal, which is poaching,” he said.

Bettridge is asked: How do you know when poaching has occurred?

“So our officers go around, and their day-to-day is to patrol the back countries, the mountains and the waterways,” he said. “They check licenses. They check bag limits. They do things like this, and if they comes across somebody that’s fishing without a license and has caught some fish. Then that’s something they address.”

In such cases, Bettridge says a citation would be issued and the fish would be confiscated. 

What are the most common animals poached in Utah?

“Coming into the fall right now, it’s a great time to be a game warden,” Bettridge said.

With the onset of the deer hunt and elk hunt, big-game violations become more common, according to Bettridge.

Other than fish, he says deer are the most common animal poached in the state. Additionally, Bettridge says elk are also popular targets for poachers. 

The punishments for those who poach

What are the consequences of poaching?

Bettridge says simply taking one too many rainbow trout would result in a $25 fine. But there would be a class B misdemeanor associated with that. So you would end up paying any additional court fees on top of the $25.

He says the bigger the animal, the stiffer the penalty.

If a elk was illegally killed, Bettridge says that would be a felony. 

“Because an elk is valued at more than $500,” he said. “Just your everyday run of the mill elk is worth $750. And the Legislature has said that anything in value over $500 is a felony.”

To report a hunting violation online, click here

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DWR says deer, elk and fish among wildlife most commonly poached in Utah