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New legislation brings changes to hunting laws in Utah

Hunter sporting a hunter orange vest.
Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
Hunter sporting a hunter orange vest.

The 2024 legislative session brought changes to wildlife management and hunting in Utah.

A new bill passed this session changes the amount of “hunter orange” someone must wear during various hunting seasons. Hunters previously had to wear at least 400 square inches of hunter orange while hunting big game species. Now, HB 222 requires hunters to wear one or more of the following: a hunter orange hat, shirt, jacket, coat, vest or sweater.

The new law can require hikers, campers or others in a wildlife management area during a big game rifle hunt to wear hunter orange as well. HB 222 goes into effect May 1.

Also starting May 1, HB 382 labels any new development an infringement on existing wildlife habitat. The designation could disqualify some individuals from filing wildlife damage or nuisance claims against the state.

The law also increases the minimum fine for illegally taking, possessing or destroying protected wildlife and set a restitution amount of $30 per pound for antlers.

The Utah Wildlife Board can also now establish rules for the commercial gathering and selling of shed antlers, including a license or permit and fee requirement. Additionally, the board can designate a season for recreational antler and horn gathering. The Division of Wildlife Resources will present official proposals for shed antler gathering rules at public meetings in April.

Another new law appropriated $8.5 million for the purchase of 2,600 acres of private land in Morgan County. The land will be included in the DWR’s East Canyon Wildlife Management Area and East Canyon State Park. The area will provide important habitat for big game animals and sage grouse. HB 2 also allocated $2 million to the Endangered Species Mitigation Fund to support conservation efforts.

To help enforce wildlife regulations, lawmakers passed HB 469 which creates the Division of Law Enforcement within the Utah Department of Natural Resources. The division, which will launch in January 2025, will be able to initiate civil and criminal proceedings. Employees in the division would have law enforcement training.