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DWR: You don’t have to report every wildlife encounter

Nov 28, 2022, 6:19 PM | Updated: Nov 29, 2022, 12:01 pm
Moose in swimming pool...
This image was taken July, 2022 and shows three moose taking a swim in a backyard pool in Salt Lake City. (KSL TV)
(KSL TV)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s mountainous terrain is home to many animals that often wander into lower elevations like neighborhoods. These sightings can be alarming and cause concern but not every wildlife sighting needs to be reported.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources released guidance Monday on when to let them know that you’ve spotted some wildlife near your home.

“Wildlife encounters during the summer often occur when people are hiking or camping in the mountains or canyons, which are natural wildlife habitat areas. However, these encounters are also common in cities and other urban areas during the winter,” a news release said. “As snow falls in the mountains, deer, moose, and other big game species move to lower elevations looking for food. Cougars, which prey mostly on deer, often follow the deer into the valleys.”

Cougar caught in Murray neighborhood; DWR getting several reports of sightings

DWR officers said these sightings are not necessarily increasing. Rather, the department said construction in the foothills and canyons is making sightings more likely. Also, the popularity of surveillance and doorbell cameras are recording wildlife activity that would not be noticed otherwise.

Caution is key. You should always keep your distance from wildlife to protect the animal and yourself.

“Getting too close to a wild animal can cause the animal to feel threatened,” DWR Capt. Chad Bettridge said. “If it feels threatened, it will sometimes act aggressively to protect itself. Plus, because it’s harder for some wildlife to find food in the winter, they need to conserve energy in order 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.”

Also, never feed a wild animal.

“Whenever someone feeds wildlife, those animals will frequently return to that area in search of food,” Bettridge said. “These areas are often near highways and towns. Concentrating deer and other wildlife near inhabited areas can sometimes result in increased traffic accidents and other human/wildlife conflicts. Attracting deer to your property through feeding can also attract predators, like cougars that follow deer herds. And while deer and moose are not predators, they are still wild animals and can be aggressive.”

Here’s a look at the kind of wildlife sightings you should report to DWR.

Cougars

Cougars can be found throughout Utah, usually in the foothill and canyon areas, but also sometimes down in the valleys — especially during the winter months when they follow food-seeking deer to lower elevations. You should report a cougar sighting if:

  • It has killed something in a neighborhood or yard.
  • It exhibits aggressive behavior.
  • It appears several times on your security cameras.

If you capture footage of a cougar on security cameras one time or see one from a distance in foothill areas, you do not need to report it. One-time sightings of cougars are typically when the animal is moving through an area, and it has often left by the time DWR biologists and conservation officers can respond. Learn more about preventing conflicts with cougars.

Bears

Black bears are the only species of bear currently found in Utah. They can also be found in the foothill areas, canyons and other similar habitats throughout Utah. If bears are in these areas, they should only be reported if they are being aggressive or if they are getting into trash, fruit trees or causing damage. You should report a bear that has wandered into lower-elevation areas and is within city limits or in heavily-populated areas. Bears typically go into hibernation from roughly November to March, so you likely won’t see one during the winter.

Moose

Moose are also commonly found in the foothill areas since that is their natural habitat.You should report a moose that has wandered into lower-elevation areas and is within city limits or heavily-populated areas, so the DWR can relocate the animal. If moose aren’t relocated, they can stay in an area for a long time and potentially injure someone or damage property. Urban environments, which include fences and vehicles, can be unsafe for moose. Avoid approaching moose or attempting to “herd” them out of yards or roads. Moose can be very aggressive, especially around dogs.

Deer

You should only report a deer sighting in a neighborhood if the animal is acting aggressively. Buck deer can often be aggressive during their breeding season, which takes place in November. If a deer is hit and killed by a vehicle in a neighborhood or is found dead in a yard or park, call your nearest DWR office to report it, so crews can remove the dead animal.

The DWR also launched the Urban Deer Program in 2014 as a way to give cities the ability to deal with ever-increasing deer/human conflicts in expanding urban areas. Learn more about the program on the DWR website.

Birds of prey

During the winter, Utahns may often see hawks, eagles and other birds of prey on the sides of the road. While it may seem like these animals have been injured, typically, they have gorged themselves on roadkill and are unable to fly for a period. These birds don’t need to be reported unless they are in the roadway (and at risk of being hit by a vehicle), they have been in the same spot for over 12 hours or they have an obvious injury.

Click here for more wildlife-related safety tips and information.

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DWR: You don’t have to report every wildlife encounter