Agency says it is 'pulling out all the stops'
If you're a poacher, you should think twice before pulling the trigger on a mule deer in Utah.
This winter, Division of Wildlife Resources conservation officers and members of sportsman's groups are carrying out the largest winter
range patrols ever conducted in the state.
"As Utahns celebrate the holidays and usher in a new year, our officers will be busy protecting the state's mule deer herds from poachers -- thieves who steal wildlife from present and future generations of ethical sportsmen," says Mike Fowlks, chief of the DWR's Law Enforcement Section.
"We won't tolerate deer poaching in Utah," Fowlks says.
"We're pulling out all the stops and using all the means we have to protect Utah's deer herds."
The following are among the things the DWR is doing:
* Patrolling winter ranges at night. Officers are conducting these patrols on land and from the air.
* Conducting saturation patrols that put several DWR officers on the same piece of winter range at the same time.
* Enlisting volunteers from sportsman groups to serve as additional 'eyes and ears.' The volunteers patrol the winter ranges. They have the means needed to report what they see and hear directly to the nearest DWR officer.
Patrols are underway across Utah. The patrols will continue through the winter.
Fowlks says most of the on-the-ground and aerial patrolling is focused on areas where deer are most at risk. "But those aren't the only areas our officers and volunteers are watching," Fowlks says. "Far from it. We're watching winter ranges across the state."
Fowlks says five areas in Utah are receiving special attention:
* The desert areas on the western side of Utah
* The southwestern corner of the state
* The Paunsaugunt deer unit in southern Utah
* The Henry Mountains unit in southeastern Utah
* The Book Cliffs unit in eastern Utah
As you travel through Utah's backcountry this winter, Fowlks encourages you to keep your eyes and ears open. "You don't have to be part of this patrol effort to make a difference," Fowlks says.
"If you see something suspicious, let us know as soon as possible."
Utah's Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline is the most efficient way to contact a DWR officer. The UTiP number is 1-800-662-3337.
The hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Winter a critical time
Much of the deer poaching that happens in Utah happens in the winter. And for good reason -- winter is the time of year when mule deer are concentrated on their lower elevation winter ranges. The bucks are also less wary because the breeding season is underway or it just finished.
Fowlks says poachers usually target the biggest bucks they can find.
In addition to stealing opportunity from legal hunters, taking the bucks can also result in too many deer being taken during hunts that upcoming fall.
Fowlks says DWR biologists count the number of bucks per 100 does in December.
"In December, the deer are bunched together on lower elevation areas where it's easier to get an accurate count," he says. "But if poachers kill bucks after the biologists have counted them, the data that's used to set permit numbers in the spring won't be correct-it will show more bucks than there actually are. And that can lead to too many hunting permits being issued."
Poachers take a big toll
So far in 2011, wildlife officers have investigated the illegal killing of 189 mule deer in Utah.
Most of the deer were bucks. The antlers on 22 of the bucks were big enough to place the deer in a trophy category. "Hunters would haven been thrilled to take any of these bucks," Fowlks says.
The monetary value of the animals to Utah's citizens is $242,800.