With winter approaching, wildlife sightings may become more frequent.

Imagine this: It’s a beautiful winter morning. You get out of your warm bed, strap on your winter boots and grab your shovel to dig your car out of the snow. But before you walk out the front door, something in the window catches your eye. To your amazement there is a 6ft tall moose munching on branches in your front yard. So- what do you do?

As stated by the DWR, if you do see wildlife in your neighborhood or yard, you should always keep your distance for your own safety and for the safety of the animal.

“Getting too close to a wild animal can cause the animal to feel threatened,” DWR Law Enforcement Capt. Wyatt Bubak said. “If it feels threatened, it will sometimes act aggressively to protect itself. Plus, because it’s harder for some wildlife to find food in the winter, they need to conserve energy in order to survive. Constantly harassing or chasing species such as moose and deer cause them to use up some of the essential fat reserves and energy they need to survive.”

Another important rule to follow is to not feed or leave out food wildlife.

“Whenever someone feeds wildlife, those animals will frequently return to that area in search of food,” Bubak said. “These areas are often near highways and towns. Concentrating deer and other wildlife near inhabited areas can sometimes result in increased traffic accidents and other human/wildlife conflicts. Attracting deer to your property through feeding can also attract predators, like cougars that follow deer herds. And while deer and moose are not predators, they are still wild animals and can be aggressive.”

According to the Division of Wildlife Resources, here is a simple breakdown of some commons scenarios that should be reported to the DWR:

Cougars

Cougars can be found throughout Utah, usually in the foothill and canyon areas, but also sometimes down in the valleys — especially during the winter months when they follow deer searching for food to lower elevations.  If you encounter a cougar that has killed something in a neighborhood or yard or it is exhibiting aggressive or threatening behavior, you should report it. If you capture footage of a cougar on security cameras or see one from a distance in foothill areas, you do not need to report it.

Bears

Black bears are the only species of bear currently found in Utah. They can also be found in the foothill areas, canyons and other similar habitats throughout Utah. If bears are in these areas, they should only be reported if they are being aggressive or if they are getting into trash, fruit trees or causing damage. You should report a bear that has wandered into lower-elevation areas and is within city limits or in heavily-populated areas. Bears typically go into hibernation from roughly November to March, so you likely won’t see one during the winter.

Moose

Moose are also commonly found in the foothill areas since that is their natural habitat. You should report a moose that has wandered into lower-elevation areas and is within city limits or heavily-populated areas, so the DWR can relocate the animal.  If moose aren’t relocated, they can stay in an area for a long time and could potentially injure someone or damage property. Avoid approaching moose or attempting to “herd” them out of yards or roads. Moose can be very aggressive, especially around dogs.

Deer

You should only report a deer sighting in a neighborhood if the animal is acting aggressively. Buck deer can often be aggressive during their breeding season, which takes place in November. If a deer is hit and killed by a vehicle in a neighborhood or is found dead in a yard or park, call your nearest DWR office to report it, so crews can remove the dead animal.

The DWR also launched the Urban Deer Program in 2014 as a way to give cities the ability to deal with ever-increasing deer/human conflicts in expanding urban areas. Learn more about the program on the DWR website.

Birds of prey

During the winter, Utahns may often see hawks, eagles and other birds of prey on the sides of the road. While it may seem like these animals have been injured, typically, they have gorged themselves on roadkill and are unable to fly for a period. Unless they are in the roadway and at risk of being hit by a vehicle, they have been in the same spot for over 12 hours or they have an obvious injury, these birds don’t need to be reported.

Wolves

The delisting of gray wolves from the Endangered Species Act is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 4. Under this nationwide delisting, wolves will be managed under a statewide management plan to guide the reestablishment of wolves in Utah. Although there are no known wolf packs in Utah currently, they do occasionally disperse into Utah. You should report any potential wolf sightings as soon as possible so the DWR can document their presence in order to guide management.

If you are ever injured during a wildlife encounter, report it immediately to the nearest DWR office.

For more information, visit wildlife.utah.gov

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