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A buck deer was left to waste after being shot and beheaded

Buck left near Wahsatch exit on I-80
Utah DWR
Buck left near Wahsatch exit on I-80

A suspected poaching incident in Summit County near the Wyoming state line has the Department of Wildlife Resources asking the community for information.

A property owner found a headless buck deer in the small town of Wahsatch, Utah -- a ghost town that lies along I-80 about 23 miles east of Echo and 11 miles from Evanston. DWR Public Information Officer Faith Heaton Jolley said it's against the law to kill a deer only for trophy.

"This deer was found on private property, and it was partially covered by a sheet of metal. And our officers during the investigation believed that the individuals were possibly trying to conceal the deer. But basically, the reason it's notable is this year it looks like it has been shot with a rifle, but only the head had been removed, and the rest of the meat had been lost to waste, which is illegal in Utah."

She said conservation officers are investigating but don't have any leads yet and hope someone has information to share with them.

"The deer was found on November 24. And so probably sometime around that timeframe, but it could have been earlier. We're not really sure when the deer was killed, and down to the residents in that area had reported previously seeing a large buck deer kind of in that same area. But officers haven't yet been able to confirm if it's the same animal. It is a little difficult because a lot of the identifying information with big game like this is their antlers. So, the whole head has been removed. It's kind of hard to confirm, you know, some of those identifying details. So yeah, right now, we're just basically asking anybody that might have any information or tips about this to contact us and report it to our conservation officers that are investigating."

Jolley said the last few years, they've seen over 1,000 animals killed illegally in Utah. Criminal wildlife investigations can be challenging to solve. However, she said most hunters, fishers, and outdoor people care deeply about wildlife preservation, ethics, and wasting hundreds of pounds of meat. She said many hunters depend on it as a food source.

“Generally, the hunting public is very willing to give us tips and to help police—they kind of self-police each other to make sure that everybody is being ethical and sportsmanlike.”

If you have a wildlife tip to share with the DWR, call 800-662-3337. There is a UTDWR law enforcement app, and you can text a tip to 847411 or go online through the DWR website.

"We have actually seen a pretty good success rate from getting tips from people, usually somebody seeing something, or they've heard something or they've, you know, seen something on social media. And so, they are usually pretty willing to come forward with the information that they have. And a lot of the times that does lead to successful prosecution."

Anyone with information about this case can contact DWR Conservation Officer Brandon Olson at 801-541-3906. Rewards are available, and requests for confidentiality are respected.

KPCW reporter Carolyn Murray covers Summit and Wasatch County School Districts. She also reports on wildlife and environmental stories, along with breaking news. Carolyn has been in town since the mid ‘80s and raised two daughters in Park City.