Wildlife conservation officers have found over 20 mutilated deer along a stretch of trophy buck territory of the Paunsaugunt range in southern Utah.

The animals were found with either their heads cut off or just the antlers removed from their heads."It's a real treasure for Utah to have these bucks here, but what we've done is created a situation where we are attracting people who do not have the same values for wildlife that we do," says regional wildlife officer Doug Messerly.

The trophy animals were found soon after the muzzleloader hunt ended.

"When you consider the number of animals taken this year from this area, nearly half were taken illegally," says Messerly.

Because of its trophy status, the Paunsaugunt hunting unit draws big-game hunters from around the country.

"This problem won't go away," Messerly warns, "but if people help us by identifying who's involved, or at least give us some good clues, the quality of these herds and the quality of the hunting in this area will be affected."

While it's difficult to put a number on how many deer are killed illegally, there is a general consensus that there are as many deer killed illegally each year as are killed legally. Anyone seeing anything suspecious is asked to contact the DWR's poaching hotline - 1-800-662-DEER.

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