2023 Updates to Regulations in Utah
Legislative Updates: Effective May 3, 2023, updated regulations allow for hunting cougars with any legal weapon and trapping with devices. License Requirements: To trap cougars, you must have a valid hunting or combination license and a valid trap registration license. Compliance with Rules: Adhere to all rules in Utah Administrative Rule R657-10 (taking cougar) and R657-11 (taking furbearers and trapping).
Cougar Regulations and Limits
Harvest Compliance: Ensure compliance with all rules regarding cougar harvest. No Annual Take Limit: There is no annual limit on the number of cougars a person may take, with the stipulation that you may not take kittens or a cougar with kittens. Review Guidebook: For identification, definitions, and further details, refer to the current Utah Cougar Guidebook.
Reporting and Permanent Tags for Cougars
Check-in Requirement: Each harvested cougar must be checked in at a Division office or with a Division employee within 48 hours of harvest. Permanent Tagging: Upon check-in, each cougar receives a permanent tag. Check the guidebook or contact the Division for detailed reporting requirements.
Bobcat Permits and Season
Permit Availability and Limits: Starting at 8 a.m. MDT on Oct. 2, 2023, bobcat permits are available online, at Division offices, and at license agents. The last day to purchase is Oct. 31, 2023, with a maximum of six permits per person. Season Dates: The 2023–2024 bobcat hunting season runs from Nov. 16, 2023, to March 1, 2024. Refer to the guidebook or Division resources for specific dates, bag limits, and other regulations.
Bobcat Removal and Temporary Tagging
- Permit Requirement: Before removing a bobcat from a trap, ensure you possess and carry a valid bobcat permit issued in your name.
- Tagging: Upon killing a bobcat, you must immediately attach your tags to the carcass. Additional details are available on page 11 of the guidebook.
Permanent Bobcat and Marten Tags
- Availability: Permanent tags for marten are available from Sept. 16, 2023, through March 8, 2024. Bobcat tags are available from Nov. 16, 2023, through March 8, 2024.
- Appointment Only: Tags can be obtained by appointment at any Division office or the Utah Trappers Association Fur Sale. For event details, visit the Utah Trappers Association.
Changes to Trail Camera Regulations
- Public Land Prohibition: From July 31 to Dec. 31, all trail cameras are prohibited on public lands.
- Private Land Permissions: Trail cameras that use internal data storage and do not transmit live data are permitted on private land for legal hunting and trapping.
- Further Information: Detailed information on the new trail camera regulations is available on page 10 of the guidebook or by visiting the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Three-Year Guidebook Cycle
- Implementation: Starting from August 2022, a 3-year guidebook cycle for furbearer regulations was approved, intending to maintain consistency in rules and regulations.
- Recent Amendments: Despite the usual stability, the 2022-23 guidebook has experienced significant amendments due to legislative changes affecting cougar and trail camera rules effective from May 3, 2023.
Interactions with Conservation Officers and Compliance Checks
Checkpoints and Officer Contacts
- Purpose: Division conservation officers and biologists conduct checkpoints and in-field checks to monitor the harvest and possession of furbearers, ensuring that hunters and trappers comply with all licensing, permitting, and equipment regulations.
- Expectations: Hunters and trappers should expect to encounter officers and biologists in the field and at checkpoints. Being prepared for these interactions is part of responsible wildlife-related activities.
- Providing Requested Items: If contacted by a conservation officer, you must provide all requested items, including licenses, permits, tags, devices used for hunting or trapping, and any game taken. Cooperation is essential for the Division to collect data and enforce regulations effectively.
- Information Collection: These interactions enable the Division to gather valuable information about Utah's furbearer populations, contributing to informed management and conservation efforts.
Participation in Surveys
- Survey Importance: The Division may contact individuals for surveys about their furharvesting experiences. Participation is encouraged as it helps evaluate population trends, assess harvest success, and gather other valuable data.
- Contribution to Management: Your feedback and data contribute significantly to understanding and managing furbearer populations effectively.
Aiding or Assisting in Violations
- Prohibition on Assistance: It's illegal to aid or assist another person in violating any provisions of the Wildlife Resources Code, rule, or guidebook.
- Penalties: The penalties for aiding or assisting in a violation are the same as those imposed for committing the primary violation itself.
Harvest Methods and Shooting Hours for Furbearers
General Harvest Methods
- Legal Means: Most furbearers can be harvested by any legal means, with the exclusion of explosives and poisons.
- Illegal Spotlighting: While hunting and trapping, the use of illegal spotlighting methods is prohibited. Details on spotlighting restrictions can be found on page 21 of the guidebook.
Specific Methods for Bobcats and Marten
- Bobcats: May be taken only by shooting, trapping, or with the aid of dogs.
- Marten: This can only be taken with an elevated, covered set where the maximum trap size shall not exceed 1½ foothold or 160 Conibear.
Restrictions on Shooting Hours and Spotlighting
- Shooting Hours: Harvesting furbearers by shooting or with the aid of dogs is limited to 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. Exceptions may apply for spotlighting certain species like coyote, red fox, striped skunk, or raccoon with a county permit.
- Spotlighting Permit: Detailed information on obtaining a permit for spotlighting certain species is available on page 21.
Trapping Devices and Time of Day
- Trapping Devices: Furbearers and cougars caught in a trap may be taken by shooting at any time.
- Checking Traps: Trapping devices may be checked and animals removed at any time of day or night, with specific exceptions for certain waterfowl management areas.
Prohibitions on Taking Wildlife
- Aerial and Motorized Vehicles: It is illegal to take any wildlife from an airplane, other airborne vehicles or devices, or from any motorized terrestrial or aquatic vehicles, including snowmobiles and recreational vehicles.
Trap Registration Numbers and Requirements in Utah
Marking Trapping Devices
- Permanent Marking: Every trapping device used for furbearers, cougars, coyotes, or raccoons must be permanently and legibly marked with your unique trap registration number.
- Consistency: You must use the same registration number across all your trapping devices to maintain consistency and accountability.
Obtaining a Trap Registration Number
- Trap Registration License: Your unique trap registration number is found on your trap registration license, a necessary document for anyone planning to trap furbearers, coyotes, or raccoons.
- License Information: For details on obtaining a trap registration license, refer to page 8 of the guidebook.
Usage and Exceptions
- One Number Assignment: You will be assigned only one trap registration number, which is to be used permanently on all your devices.
- Exception: The only exception to marking traps is for devices set for coyotes or raccoons within 600 feet of a building or structure occupied by humans or livestock.
Registration Number Restrictions
- Single Registration Number: You cannot have more than one registration number on your traps, ensuring each trapper has a unique identifier for their equipment.
- Reporting Changes and Theft: If there are changes to your address or if your trapping devices are stolen, you must notify the Division within 30 days.
Regulations for Trapping Devices in Utah
Foothold Traps Specifications
- Jaw Spacers: Foothold traps must have spacers leaving at least a 3/16-inch opening when the jaws are closed.
- Exceptions: The spacer requirement does not apply to rubber-padded jaw traps, traps with jaw spreads less than 4.25 inches, or traps completely submerged underwater.
Cable Device (Snare) Requirements
- Breakaway Mechanism: Cable devices set for furbearers, cougars, coyotes, or raccoons must have a breakaway lock mechanism releasing at forces over 300 pounds, except those set in water or with a loop size smaller than 3 inches.
- Securing: Breakaway cable devices must be secured to an immovable object, with the use of drugs prohibited.
Setting and Checking Traps
- Permission: Do not set traps on posted private property without written permission from the landowner or lessee.
- Reporting Illegal Traps: If you find an illegally set trapping device, report it to a conservation officer immediately.
- Regular Checks: Trapping devices must be checked and animals removed at least once every 48 hours, with certain types of lethal traps requiring checks every 96 hours.
- Authorized Checks: If unable to check your traps, you may authorize another person with the appropriate licenses and written permission to do so.
Removal of Animals from Traps
- Live Animals: It's prohibited to transport or possess live protected wildlife, coyotes, or raccoons removed from traps. Any live animal found must be euthanized within the 48-hour check period or released unharmed immediately.
- Release of Cougars: A cougar released from a trapping device cannot be pursued with dogs for 48 hours after release.
Specific Exemptions for Coyotes and Raccoons
- Exemption Conditions: The above restrictions do not apply to trapping devices set for coyotes or raccoons within 600 feet of a building occupied by humans or domestic livestock.
Guidelines for Removing Traps and Trapped Wildlife in Utah
Authorized Individuals for Trap Disturbance or Removal
Only specific individuals are allowed to disturb or remove trapping devices:
- Trap Owner: The individual who owns the trap.
- Authorized Person: Someone who has all legal requirements and the owner’s written authorization.
- Peace Officers: Officers performing routine duties.
- Landowner: The landowner where the trap is set.
- Domestic Pet Owners: Individuals removing their trapped pet from the device.
Conditions for Killing or Removing Wildlife from Traps
Individuals who can legally kill or remove wildlife from a trap include:
- Trap Owner: Must possess the appropriate permit, license, tag, or legal authorization required for the species captured.
- Authorized Person: As above, with all legal requirements and owner’s written authorization.
- Peace Officers: Officers performing their routine duties.
Requirements for Non-Owners Handling Traps
A non-owner can handle traps or trapped wildlife if they meet the following criteria:
- Trap Registration: The trapping device must be marked with the owner’s registration number.
- Licenses and Permits: Possession of a valid furbearer license and the appropriate permits or tags for furbearer sets.
- Valid Bobcat Permit: If removing a bobcat, they must carry a valid permit in their name and tag the carcass accordingly.
- License Status: Their trap registration or furbearer license must not be denied or suspended.
- Written Authorization: They must carry written authorization from the trap owner, detailing specific information including date, owner’s details, authorization individual's name, and owner's signature. A template for authorization can be found at the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
Responsibilities and Liability
- Registration Number: Any trapping device with your registration number makes you liable for violations committed with that device.
- Stolen Devices: Report stolen devices to the Division immediately.
- Record of Authorization: Maintain and provide upon request a record of individuals with authorization to remove your traps.
Exemptions and Additional Notes
- Usage of Owner’s Licenses: Authorization does not allow for the use of the owner's trap registration license, furbearer license, permit, or tag by another person.
- Coyotes and Raccoons: The trapping restrictions do not apply to devices set for coyotes or raccoons within 600 feet of a building occupied or used by humans or domestic livestock.
Regulations on the Use of Bait in Trapping
General Bait Usage
- Protected Wildlife Restrictions: Generally, using protected wildlife or its parts as bait for trapping furbearers, cougars, coyotes, or raccoons is prohibited.
- Permissible Bait: Exceptions include using white-bleached bones of protected wildlife (with no hide or flesh attached) and parts of legally taken furbearers and nonprotected wildlife.
Specifics for Setting Traps Near Bait
- Distance Requirement: Trapping devices must not be set within 30 feet of any exposed bait or carcasses of protected wildlife unless the carcass is naturally located and not moved for trapping purposes.
- Bait in Artificial Cubby Sets: Bait used inside an artificial cubby set must be at least 8 inches from the opening. The top of the opening should be even with or below the bottom of the bait to conceal it from above.
Responsibilities and Visibility of Bait
- Responsible for Exposed Bait: If you use bait, you are responsible for ensuring it remains properly concealed. If the bait becomes exposed for any reason, you are accountable for any related issues or infractions.
Exemptions for Coyotes and Raccoons
- Exemption Conditions: The above restrictions on the use of bait do not apply to trapping devices set for coyotes or raccoons within 600 feet of a building occupied or used by humans or domestic livestock.
Handling Accidental Trapping of Protected Wildlife
Immediate Release of Alive Animals
- Release Requirement: Any protected wildlife, including cougar kittens and female cougars with kittens, accidentally caught and found alive in a trapping device must be immediately released unharmed. Authorization is required for anyone handling these animals (see guidelines for authorized individuals).
Reporting Accidental Catches
- Division Notification: If you accidentally trap protected wildlife, you must report the incident to the Division within 48 hours. This helps in monitoring and managing wildlife populations.
- Permission for Carcass Removal: To remove the carcass of accidentally trapped protected wildlife, you must first obtain permission from a Division representative and then turn over the carcass to the Division.
Special Cases: Endangered Species
- Black-footed Ferret and Lynx: If you accidentally trap either of these federally protected species, immediate reporting to both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Division is mandatory.
- Wolves: As a protected species in Utah, any accidental trapping or capture of a wolf must be reported immediately to the Division.
Liability for Unauthorized Species
No Criminal Liability: You are not criminally liable under state law for capturing or killing an unauthorized species of protected wildlife in a trapping device if you meet all the following conditions:
- The capture was not intentional.
- You possess a valid trap registration license or valid written authorization from the owner of the trapping device.
- You hold the necessary licenses, permits, and tags for the intended targeted wildlife species.
- You comply with all other provisions of Utah’s Wildlife Code and regulations related to trapping the targeted species.
Regulations for Carrying Loaded Firearms in Vehicles in Utah
General Prohibition and Exceptions
- Prohibition: Generally, carrying a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle is prohibited in Utah.
Exceptions: You may carry a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle if you meet all of the following conditions:
- Ownership or Permission: You own the vehicle or have permission from the vehicle's owner.
- Type of Firearm: The loaded firearm is a handgun.
- Age Requirement: You are 18 years of age or older.
Definition of Loaded Firearms
Understanding the definition of a "loaded" firearm is essential for compliance:
- Pistols, Revolvers, Rifles, and Shotguns: These are considered loaded if there is an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile in the firing position. For pistols and revolvers, if an unexpended cartridge, shell, or projectile is in a position where a single manual operation of any mechanism would cause it to be fired, it is also considered loaded.
- Muzzleloading Firearms: A muzzleloader is considered loaded when it is capped or primed and has a powder charge and ball or shot in the barrel or cylinders.
Restrictions on Discharging Firearms in Certain Areas
Prohibited Circumstances and Locations
Under Utah Code § 76-10-508, several specific circumstances and locations restrict the discharge of firearms:
- From a Vehicle: Discharging a weapon from any vehicle is prohibited.
- Highways: It's illegal to discharge a firearm from, upon, or across any highway.
- Infrastructure: Shooting at power lines, signs, railroad equipment, or facilities is forbidden.
- State Park Areas: Discharging firearms within Utah state park camps or picnic sites, overlooks, golf courses, boat ramps, or developed beaches is prohibited.
- Proximity to Buildings and Animals: Without explicit written permission, discharging a firearm within 600 feet of a house, dwelling, any other building, or any structure where domestic animals are kept or fed, is not allowed.
Spotlighting Regulations for Hunting and Trapping in Utah
Prohibition on Spotlighting for Hunting
Under Utah law, the following restrictions apply to spotlighting:
- No Spotlighting for Hunting: It is illegal to use spotlighting to hunt or harvest protected wildlife.
- Prohibition on Light Use: You may not use a spotlight, headlight, or other artificial light to locate protected wildlife if you possess a firearm or other weapon that could be used to take or injure wildlife.
- Probable Cause: The use of artificial light in areas where protected wildlife are generally found is considered probable cause for attempting to locate protected wildlife.
Exceptions to the Restrictions
Despite the general prohibitions, certain individuals and circumstances are exempt from the spotlighting restrictions:
- Usual Use of Vehicle Lights: Individuals who use the headlights of a motor vehicle or other artificial light in a regular manner, without the intent to locate protected wildlife, are exempt.
- Trappers: Trappers may use artificial light to illuminate paths and trap sites for conducting required trap checks. However, the light must be carried and not attached to or powered by a motor vehicle. Trappers are also prohibited from operating any motor vehicle while checking traps with an artificial light.
- Concealed Firearm Carriers: The spotlighting restrictions do not apply to individuals carrying a concealed firearm, as long as the firearm is not being used to hunt or take wildlife.
Spotlighting Regulations for Hunting in Utah
Prohibition of Spotlighting for Protected Wildlife
- General Ban: Spotlighting is prohibited for hunting or harvesting any protected wildlife in Utah. This includes using any spotlight, headlight, or other artificial light to locate protected wildlife when in possession of a firearm or device capable of taking or injuring wildlife.
- Probable Cause: The use of artificial light in areas where protected wildlife is generally found is considered a probable cause of attempting to locate protected wildlife, warranting scrutiny, and potential legal action.
Exceptions to the Spotlighting Prohibition
Certain individuals are exempt from the spotlighting restrictions under specific conditions:
- Usual Light Use: Individuals using the headlights of a motor vehicle or other artificial light in a regular manner without the intent to locate protected wildlife.
- Trappers: Trappers conducting required trap checks may use artificial light to illuminate paths and trap sites, provided the light is carried and not attached to a motor vehicle.
Concealed Firearm Carriers
Concealed firearm carriers are not restricted by the spotlighting regulations provided they are not using the firearm to hunt or take wildlife.
County Laws and Permissible Spotlighting for Certain Species
- County Permissions: Some counties may allow spotlighting for the harvesting of coyote, red fox, striped skunk, or raccoon. Individuals should refer to Utah Code § 23-13-17 and local county laws for specific permissions.
- Landowners and Wildlife Services Agents: Spotlighting may be used by landowners or their agents to protect crops or domestic animals from predation by coyotes, red foxes, striped skunks, or raccoons, and by Wildlife Services agents acting under an official capacity.
Prohibition on Carrying a Dangerous Weapon Under the Influence in Utah
Alcohol and Drug Impairment While Carrying a Dangerous Weapon
Utah Code § 76-10-528 establishes a clear prohibition: individuals are not allowed to carry a dangerous weapon while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This restriction applies to anyone, including those engaged in activities such as hunting furbearers, cougars, coyotes, or raccoons.
Trespassing Laws in Utah: Wildlife-Related Activities
When engaging in wildlife-related activities or taking wildlife in Utah, it is crucial to adhere to the state's trespassing laws as specified in Utah Code §§ 23-20-14 and 23-20-3.5. These laws are designed to protect private property rights and promote responsible conduct in outdoor activities.
Restricted Access to Privately Owned Land
Cultivated Land: Without explicit permission, individuals are prohibited from entering or remaining on privately owned land that is cultivated. Cultivated land includes areas used for crop cultivation or artificially irrigated pastures.
Properly Posted Land: Entry onto privately owned land that is properly posted with signs prohibiting trespassing is not allowed. Alternatively, land can be considered properly posted if it has bright yellow, bright orange, or fluorescent paint markings that are visible at corners, fishing streams crossing property lines, roads, gates, and rights-of-way.
Fenced or Enclosed Land: Individuals may not enter or remain on privately owned land that is fenced or enclosed in a manner intended to keep intruders out.
Obeying Owner's Directives
In addition to the above rules, it is essential to respect the owner's directives:
Owner's Direction: If the owner or a person acting on behalf of the owner directs you not to enter or remain on private land, you must comply with their instructions.
Obstruction: Do not obstruct any entrances or exits to private property.
Written Authorization: To access cultivated or properly posted private land, individuals must obtain written authorization (permission) from the owner or the person in charge. The permission document should include:
- The signature of the owner or person in charge.
- The name of the person granted permission.
- Appropriate dates for access.
- A general description of the land.
- Prohibited Postings: It is unlawful to post private property that you do not own or legally control, as well as land that is open to the public under Utah Code § 23-21-4.
Consequences of Violations
Violating these provisions can result in significant consequences:
Class B Misdemeanor: Trespassing in violation of these laws constitutes a class B misdemeanor.
License Suspension: Individuals found guilty of trespassing may face the suspension of their hunting or fishing licenses, tags, or permits.
Restricted Areas for Hunting and Wildlife Activities in Utah
When engaging in hunting and wildlife-related activities in Utah, it is crucial to be aware of restricted areas to ensure compliance with state regulations. Here are some key points regarding restricted areas:
Military Installations and Federal Wildlife Refuges
Utah Military Installations: Military installations in Utah, including Camp Williams, are typically closed to hunting, trapping, and trespassing unless authorized otherwise. It is essential to respect the boundaries of these installations and refrain from engaging in any prohibited activities.
Federal Wildlife Refuges: Federal wildlife refuges in Utah are also generally closed to hunting, trapping, and trespassing unless specific authorization is granted. These areas are established to protect and conserve wildlife, and entry may be restricted to minimize disturbances.
Native American Trust Lands
If you plan to hunt on Native American trust lands, it is essential to adhere to the wildlife regulations established by the respective tribe. Native American trust lands have their own rules and regulations for hunting and wildlife management, which must be followed.
Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs)
Utah has various Division-owned wildlife management areas (WMAs) that serve as critical habitats for wildlife conservation. It's important to note the following regarding WMAs:
Motor Vehicle Access: Most Division-owned WMAs are closed to motor vehicles. Access to these areas via motor vehicles is typically allowed only if you have obtained prior written authorization from the appropriate Division regional office. Unauthorized motor vehicle use can harm wildlife habitats and disrupt conservation efforts.
Goshen Warm Springs WMA: Goshen Warm Springs WMA is closed to all hunting, trapping, and trespassing. This area is off-limits for these activities, and individuals should respect the restrictions in place.
Depredation Control of Wildlife in Utah
Utah has specific regulations in place to address depredation control of certain wildlife species that may cause nuisance or damage. Here's an overview of the rules for depredation control of various species:
Badger, Weasel, and Spotted Skunk
- Nuisance or Damage Control: If a badger, weasel, or spotted skunk is causing a nuisance or damage, you are allowed to harvest it at any time without the need for a license. However, you are not allowed to sell or trade the animal or its parts.
Red Fox and Striped Skunk
- No License Required: Red fox and striped skunk may be taken at any time without the need for a furbearer license.
Wildlife Services Agent: A Wildlife Services agent may remove or harvest a depredating bobcat as long as the agent is supervised by the USDA Wildlife Services program and follows Division-approved procedures.
Livestock Owner or Employee: A livestock owner or the owner's employee may take bobcats that are harassing livestock. The employee must be on a regular payroll and not hired specifically to take furbearers.
Surrender Requirement: Any bobcat harvested by a livestock owner or an employee must be surrendered to the Division within 72 hours.
- Nuisance Permit: If a beaver is causing damage or exhibiting other nuisance behavior, you may harvest or remove it even during closed seasons. However, you must obtain a nuisance permit from a Division office or conservation officer before taking any action.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ 1: Can I Remove a Badger Causing Damage? Answer: Yes, you can harvest a badger causing damage without a license.
FAQ 2: Are There Specific Rules for Removing Red Foxes? Answer: Red foxes can be taken at any time without a license in Utah.
FAQ 3: What's the Procedure for Dealing with Depredating Bobcats? Answer: Wildlife Services agents can remove depredating bobcats following approved procedures.
FAQ 4: Can I Remove Bobcats Harassing My Livestock? Answer: Yes, as a livestock owner or employee, you can take bobcats harassing livestock and must surrender them to the Division.
FAQ 5: Are There Rules for Dealing with Beavers Causing Damage? Answer: Yes, you can remove beavers causing damage with a nuisance permit, even during closed seasons.
FAQ 6: When Can I Use Dogs for Pursuing Furbearers in Utah? Answer: Dogs can be used from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset during open seasons.
FAQ 7: Do I Need a Furbearer License When Using Dogs for Hunting? Answer: Yes, you must have a valid furbearer license when using dogs for hunting.
FAQ 8: Can I Sell Harvested Furbearer Species? Answer: If you possess a valid furbearer license, you can sell legally harvested species you were licensed to take.
FAQ 9: What Are the Rules for Transporting Green Pelts of Furbearers? Answer: You can transport green pelts with the appropriate license and permits, and bobcats and marten must be correctly tagged.
FAQ 10: Do I Need a Shipping Permit to Export Green Pelts from Utah? Answer: Yes, a valid shipping permit from the Division is required for exporting green pelts of furbearers from Utah.