When You Should Report a Wildlife Sighting/Encounter

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DWR Press Release

Utah’s growing population and associated expansion have increased the number of wildlife encounters throughout the state in recent years. However, not every encounter or sighting of animals has to be reported to the Utah Department of Wildlife Resources.

Wildlife encounters often occur during the summer when people are hiking or camping in the mountains or canyons, which are areas of natural habitat for wildlife. However, such encounters are also common in cities and other urban areas during the winter. With snowfall in the mountains, deer, moose and other large game species move to lower altitudes in search of food. Cougars, which often prey on deer, often follow deer into valleys.

While it may appear that these types of sightings are increasing, it is actually a combination of several things: increased construction in hilly and canyon areas, where wildlife exists naturally, and an increase in the number of doorbells and security cameras on people’s homes, which are capturing more sightings. previously undiscovered wildlife.

If you see wildlife in your area or yard, always keep your distance for your own safety and that of the animal.

“Getting too close to a wild animal can make it feel threatened,” said White Boback, DWR’s chief of law enforcement. “If they feel threatened, they will sometimes act aggressively to protect themselves. In addition, because it is difficult for some wild animals to find food in the winter, they need to conserve energy in order to survive. Stirring or chasing species such as moose and deer constantly causes in their consumption of some of the essential fat reserves and energy they need to survive.”

Another important way to avoid conflict and prevent damage to wildlife is to make sure that you never feed them. While it is not illegal to feed wildlife, there are several reasons why it is strongly discouraged, including public safety concerns; prevalence of chronic wasting disease among deer, elk and moose; and potential harm to wildlife from introducing foods that are not in their diets, especially during the winter months.

“When someone is feeding the wildlife, those animals will often come back to that area in search of food,” Boback said. These areas are often near highways and cities. Concentration of deer and other wildlife near populated areas can sometimes increase traffic accidents and other human/wildlife conflicts. Attracting deer to your property by feeding them can also attract predators, such as cougars that follow deer herds. And although deer and moose are not predators, they are still wild animals and can be aggressive.”

So, what kind of wildlife sightings or encounters should you report? Below is a simple breakdown of some of the scenarios that should be reported to the Water and Sanitation Department:


Cougars can be found throughout Utah, usually in hilly areas and valleys, but also occasionally in valleys—particularly during the winter months when they follow foraging deer to lower elevations. You should report a Cougar Watch if:

  • You killed something in a neighborhood or yard.

  • Shows aggressive behavior.

  • It appears on your security cameras.

If you ever capture footage of a cougar on security cameras or see one from a distance in hilly areas, you don’t need to report it. Cougars are usually one-time sightings when the animal is moving through an area, and they often have left by the time DWR biologists and conservation personnel can respond.


Black bears are the only species currently found in Utah. They can also be found in hills, valleys, and other similar habitats throughout Utah. If the bears are in these areas, they should not be reported unless they are aggressive or if they enter litter or fruit trees or cause damage. You should report a bear wandering in low altitude areas, within city limits or in densely populated areas. Bears typically hibernate from about November to March, so you likely won’t see one during the winter.

Giant American deer

Moose are also commonly found in hilly areas because this is their natural habitat. You must report a moose that has roamed in lower elevation areas and within city limits or densely populated areas, so that the DWR can transport the animal. If a moose is not moved, it can stay in an area for a long time and potentially injure someone or damage property. Urban environments, which include fences and vehicles, can be unsafe for moose. Avoid getting close to moose or trying to “graze” them away from plazas or roads. Moose can be very aggressive, especially around dogs.


You should only report seeing a deer in the neighborhood if the animal is behaving aggressively. Buck deer are often aggressive during the breeding season that occurs in November. If a car crashes into a neighborhood and kills a deer or is found dead in a yard or park, call your nearest DWR office to report it, so crews can remove the dead animal.

DWR also launched Urban Deer 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.

wild birds

During the winter, Utahns may often see hawks, eagles, and other birds of prey on either side of the road. While it may seem that these animals are injured, they usually devour themselves on the road and cannot fly for a while. These birds need to be reported only if they are on the road (and at risk of hitting a vehicle), have been in the same spot for more than 12 hours or have an obvious injury.


Gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species Act list on January 4, 2021. Under this nationwide removal, wolves are now managed under a statewide management plan. Although there are currently no known wolf populations in Utah, they do occasionally occur in the state. You should report any potential wolf sightings as soon as possible so that DWR can document their presence in order to direct their management.

If you ever get injured while encountering wildlife, report it immediately to your nearest DWR office. For more wildlife safety tips and information, visit the Wild Aware Utah website.

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