Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reminds public to leave wild animals in the wild, location and date unspecified | Photo courtesy of DWR, St. George News
ST. GEORGE-The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is once again reminding the public of the dangers and legalities of trying to keep a wild animal as a pet after four raccoons were recently seized from a northeast Utah residence. ‘Utah.
According to a Tuesday press release from the DWR, conservation officers received a report March 2 from a family keeping four pet raccoons at their home in Roosevelt. Upon further investigation, officers discovered that the animals had been illegally brought into Utah from another state when the individuals moved to Utah. The animals were removed from the house and the individuals were cited.
Since 2019, approximately 10 illegally detained raccoons have been seized from residences in northeast Utah.
It is illegal to own wild animals without proper permits
It is illegal to hold any protected wildlife in Utah in captivity. The protected wildlife includes a variety of species including those you can hunt like deer, cottontail rabbits, several species of birds, bears, cougars and others. Many species of birds that are not hunted are also protected, under the Migratory Birds Treaty Act.
The DWR oversees the management of protected wildlife throughout the state.
Some wild animals are not protected by Utah state law, which means you don’t need to have a valid hunting or trapping license to harvest them. However, there are different rules for keeping one in your possession. Wild animals, such as raccoons (which are not native to Utah) and coyotes, require a permit to house them in captivity.
The importation, distribution, relocation, holding in captivity or possession of live coyotes and raccoons in Utah is regulated by the Agricultural and Wildlife Damage Prevention Board and is prohibited under Utah codeexcept like licensed by the state veterinarian’s office at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Unauthorized animals may be seized immediately by DWR, Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, animal control officers, or law enforcement officers if the person owning the animal cannot produce a valid license for each animal.
The following wildlife is considered unprotected wildlife in the state of Utah:
- ground squirrels
- field mice
Violators can receive a citation for unlawful possession of these animals, which is a class B misdemeanor.
“It is important to protect the health, welfare and safety of the public, as well as wildlife,” said DWR Law Enforcement Captain Chad Bettridge. “These animals are wild and should be treated as such, even when they are babies.”
Illness and other safety issues
Diseases, viruses and parasites from unprotected and protected wild animals can be transmitted to humans and pets via saliva, feces or urine. Viral diseases of raccoons include rabies, distemper, raccoon parvoviral enteritis, infectious canine hepatitis, and pseudorabies. Raccoons can carry and transmit leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis, which can be fatal to unborn babies.
Raccoons can also be infected with the roundworm Baylisascaris, a parasite. They rarely show symptoms of having these roundworms and can pass them on to people and other animals via their feces. This parasite can cause extreme damage to the human eye, organs and brain.
Fawns and other large game animals may appear harmless when they are born, but they can become aggressive as they age, especially around dogs and during breeding seasons. Whenever wildlife becomes habituated to humans, it can lead to dangerous situations for animals and the public.
What to do if you come across a baby wild animal?
Typically, when people come across a baby animal in the wild that they think has been abandoned, its mother is actually nearby. The DWR recommends that you leave the animal where you found it and do not touch it. If you have any concerns or if the animal appears sick or injured, you can contact nearest DWR office.
For more tips on how to live safely with wildlife, visit the Wild Aware Utah website.
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