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Utah launches massive patrol effort to deter poachers

From Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

-- This winter, Utah Wildlife Resources conservation officers and members of sportsman's groups are carrying out the largest winter range patrols ever conducted in the state.

"We won't tolerate deer poaching in Utah," according to Mike Fowlks, DWR Law Enforcement Section chief. "We're pulling out all the stops and using all the means we have to protect Utah's deer herds."

The DWR is focusing on several items:

* 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. 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, and will continue through the winter.

Fowlks says most of the ground and aerial patrolling focuses on areas where deer are most at risk. "But those aren't the only areas officers and volunteers are watching," he said. "Far from it."

Fowlks says five areas in Utah receiving special attention include 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, and the Book Cliffs unit in eastern Utah.

Residents are also encouraged to use the Turn-In-a-Poacher hotline.

Travelers through Utah's back country are asked to be alert. "You don't have to be part of this patrol effort to make a difference," he said. "If you see something suspicious, let us know as soon as possible."

Utah's Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline at (800)662-3337 is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is the most efficient way to contact a DWR officer.

Much of the deer poaching in Utah happens in the winter when mule deer are concentrated on 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.

DWR biologists count the number of bucks per 100 does in December. "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," Fowlks said.

During 2011, wildlife officers 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.

DWR estimated the monetary value of the animals to Utah's citizens at $242,800.

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