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DWR PROBING DEER POACHING IN KANE AND GARFIELD COUNTIES

SHARE DWR PROBING DEER POACHING IN KANE AND GARFIELD COUNTIES

One of Utah's best-known, big-game hunting grounds has been turned into one of the state's biggest poaching grounds.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has made two arrests and is investigating several other leads in the poaching of about 20 trophy-size mule deer in the Paunsaugunt Plateau section of Kane and Garfield counties.Investigators believe several poachers are responsible for the killings in the limited-entry hunting section 30 miles north of Kanab. The shootings are believed to have occurred shortly after the muzzleloader season ended around Nov. 8.

DWR investigator Doug Messerly said two Mesa, Ariz., men have been arrested in the incidents. But Messerly said DWR officials still believe several other "unscrupulous hunters" are responsible for the carnage.

Nearly two dozen deer have been found shot with their heads cut off for trophies. In a majority of the cases, the meat was left to rot.

"This is a waste," he said. "It's kind of a major epidemic over there."

Messerly said the plateau is nationally renowned as a premier, big-game hunting area. Only 295 hard-to-get permits are available to the public.

Messerly said the poachers are taking the deer away from legitimate hunters.

"If we assume that we've found about 10 percent of all the poached deer up there, it means about half of this year's harvest has been done illegally," he said.

Poaching is a class A misdemeanor, punishable by one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. In some cases, a hunter's equipment can be confiscated and his hunting privileges revoked for up to five years.