Division of Wildlife Resources agrees to host wildlife open house | ParkRecord.com

Division of Wildlife Resources agrees to host wildlife open house

Several elk are shown at Kimball Junction in November. The fate of the area s wildlife has inspired a group of citizens to advocate for more education and safety measures to protect the animals. The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has agreed to host an open house at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the Sheldon Richins Building, to address the groups concerns and discuss the agency s policies. (Park Record File Photo)

When Ralph Hottinger moved to Park City from Southern California nearly 50 years ago, he says he "did it for the wildlife."

Wildlife sightings are synonymous with living in the mountains, especially around Park City and the surrounding neighborhoods in the Snyderville Basin, Hottinger said. However, the Hidden Cove resident said he has not seen any animals near his property for the last several months.

"I moved back here for the wildlife and now I have no wildlife left because of the collisions with cars and relocations," he said.

Hottinger represents a growing number of people who are frustrated with how wildlife incidents are handled by community members and officers with the Division of Wildlife Resources. A recent incident in Summit Park that resulted in a mountain lion’s death has angered people, he said.

Hottinger said residents are "too quick to call and report wildlife in their yard and DWR officers are too quick to shoot."

"There have been some tensions with what DWR has done lately," Hottinger said. "Most of us live up here because we like the wildlife. The new people need to learn if they are going to live here they should get along with the animals because sometimes when you call DWR you are signing their death warrant. Relocations aren’t successful."

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Hottinger is a member of a grassroots organization called Save People Save Wildlife. As of Jan. 19, the Facebook page had amassed 277 likes. The group initially formed to advocate for more wildlife fencing along Interstate 80 following the deaths of several moose over the course of a few weeks. However, the group has shifted its focus to advocate for the safety of all wildlife throughout the county.

DWR is partnering with Wild Aware Utah to host an open house at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 27, at the Sheldon Richins Building to address some of the groups’ concerns and to provide information to residents about living with wildlife. DWR biologists, staff from the Hogle Zoo and Wild Aware Utah will be on hand to discuss living with wildlife, transplant and relocation policies, public and pet safety, moose and elk management plans, predators and feeding wildlife.

Scott Root, DWR central region conservation outreach manager, said the purpose of the meeting is to have a dialogue with residents about how DWR operates.

"We don’t want this to be everyone ganging up on DWR," Root said. "We wanted to have this open house because Park City is located in the mountains and every year we have issues. We had to euthanize a cougar recently and people aren’t happy about it. We are relocating some elk that are causing landowners some problems and, by law, we have to respond to those complaints. But we also want to serve as a resource to help people and let them understand where we are coming from.

"We are not trying to be a secretive agency," Root said. "We are coming out trying to address these issues and look for solutions."

Jennifer Terry, a Jeremy Ranch resident, is also a member of ‘Save People Save Wildlife.’ In an interview with The Park Record, Terry spoke passionately about the need for residents to respect animals in the area and for DWR officers to find alternative solutions to relocating or euthanizing animals that find their way into residential areas.

"Our stance is to educate and not relocate," Terry said. "We want to educate the public on how to deal with wildlife. I feel people should be more responsible instead of calling state agencies.

They should learn to coexist."

One of the main issues, Terry said, is that the community is divided about how to deal with the situation.

"Half of the people think they are a nuisance and half don’t," Terry said. "I’m sick of it. I have noticed a steady decline in the wildlife and it’s time to get some answers as to why."

For more information about Save People Save Wildlife, go to their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/savepeoplesavewildlife/?fref=ts.