UTAH, Feb. 17, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — Sixteen people have been cited so far for violating Utah’s shed antler gathering ban this winter, officials said Friday.
Since the statewide ban started on Feb. 3, Division of Wildlife Resources officers have spent more than 500 hours watching areas where big game animals congregate in the winter, and have also responded to several tips received on the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher (UTiP) hotline.
The closure — enforced on both public and private land — is designed to reduce stress on deer, elk and moose and help more of the animals make it through the winter, DWR director Greg Sheehan said in a news release.
DWR captain Mitch Lane said several of the individuals were cited for unlawful take of protected wildlife — in this case, antlers and horns. Unlawful take of protected wildlife is a class B misdemeanor, and the violators now face fines as high as $1,000.
“Our officers cited these individuals after watching them look for and then pick up antlers,” Lane said in the prepared statement. “Or we caught them with antlers in their possession.”
In two separate cases, an officer watched an individual pick antlers up and then stash them away, so he could pick them up later, the news release said. As the violator walked off the mountain, the officer was there to greet him.
“At first, the individual denied they were shed hunting, even though the officer watched him do it,” Lane said. “It was easy to find the evidence, though: after the officer interviewed the person, and let him go, he followed the person’s footprints in the snow, right to the spots where the antlers were stashed.”
The officer then contacted the person to say he’d found the antlers the suspect had tried to hide. At that point, Lane said each person admitted gathering antlers illegally.
“In each case, the person said they knew the shed antler gathering season was closed, but they couldn’t resist the temptation to gather antlers,” Lane said.
The officers seized the illegally collected antlers.
In addition to observing people gathering antlers, Lane said officers have made several cases after receiving tips on the UTiP hotline. The hotline number is 1-800-662-DEER (3337).
Lane says enforcing the shed antler closure will remain a top priority for DWR officers until the ban ends on April 1.