The Department of Wildlife Resources warns the public that keeping wild animals as pets could result in citations.
DWR conservation officers received a report on March 2 of a family keeping four pet raccoons at their home in Roosevelt. Upon further investigation, the officers discovered the animals had been brought into Utah illegally from another state when the individuals moved to the Beehive State. (Photo: Utah Division of Wildlife Resources)
(KUTV) ALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is alerting the public of the perils and laws of keeping a wild animal as a pet once again.
According to the DWR, conservation officials received a report on March 2 from a household in Roosevelt who kept four pet raccoons. Officers determined the animals had been brought into Utah illegally from another state after the individuals moved to the Beehive State after additional inquiry.
The animals were taken from the residence, and the individuals were issued citations.
Since the beginning of 2019, about ten unlawfully kept raccoons have been captured from homes in northeastern Utah.
If the individual in possession of the animal cannot show a valid permit for each animal, the DWR, Utah Department of Health, Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, animal control officers, or peace police may seize the animal immediately.
In Utah, the following wild animals are considered non-protected wildlife:
Squirrels in the ground
Mice in the wild
Illegally possessing these creatures is a Class B misdemeanor, and you could be issued a citation.
"It's critical to preserve the public's health, welfare, and safety, as well as the health, welfare, and safety of wildlife," said DWR Law Enforcement Capt. Chad Bettridge. "Even when they are young, these animals are wild and should be handled as such."
It is prohibited in Utah to keep any protected animals confined, according to state law. Deer, cottontail rabbits, several bird species, bears, cougars, and other species of protected wildlife include those that can be hunted. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, many non-hunted bird species are also protected. The DWR is in charge of managing protected wildlife across the state.
Some wild animals are not protected by Utah state law, which means you can harvest them without a valid hunting or trapping license. However, there are other requirements to follow if you want to keep one.
To keep wild animals in captivity, such as raccoons (which are not native to Utah) and coyotes, a permission is required. The Agricultural and Wildlife Damage Prevention Board regulates the importation, distribution, relocation, holding in captivity, and possession of live coyotes and live raccoons in Utah, and it is illegal under Utah law unless approved by the State Veterinarian's office at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food.
Concerns about disease and other safety issues:
Humans and pets can contract diseases, viruses, and parasites from non-protected and protected wildlife through saliva, feces, or urine. Rabies, canine distemper, raccoon parvoviral enteritis, infectious canine hepatitis, and pseudorabies are all viral illnesses that affect raccoons. Raccoons can carry and spread diseases such as leptospirosis and toxoplasmosis, both of which can be fatal to unborn children.
The parasitic roundworm Baylisascaris can also affect raccoons. They rarely show any signs of possessing roundworms, but they can pass them on to people and other animals through their excrement. The human eye, organs, and brain are all vulnerable to this parasite.
Fawns and other big game animals may appear harmless when they are young, but as they grow older, they can become hostile, especially around dogs and during breeding seasons. When wildlife develops accustomed to humans, it can put both the animals and the general public in danger.
What should you do if you encounter a baby wild animal?
The DWR suggests that you leave the animal alone and do not approach it. You can contact the nearest DWR office if you have any concerns or if the animal appears to be sick or injured.
Visit the Wild Aware Utah website for more information on how to live safely with animals.