Utah Votes To Ban Trail Cameras for Hunters

by TK Sanders

The Utah Wildlife Board recently decided to uphold a previous vote banning trail cameras for hunting and scouting. The ban will prevent hunters from using wireless and non-transmitting cameras on both public and private land during the hunting season. Therefore, outdoor enthusiasts won’t be able to rely on footage between the days of July 31 through December 31 for gathering intel on potential animals any longer.

Back in January, the Wildlife Board originally voted 4-3 in favor of the ban; but agreed to hear appeals evidence due to the massive public backlash. During the appeals hearings the last two months, the board heard testimonies from both sides of the issue. Hundreds of stakeholders filed opinions online, and then the board met on March 10 for over two hours of public commentary. It seems this issue has truly divided the state in half.

Proponents of the ban argued that the growing use of trail cameras violates fair-chase tenets. This argument holds especially true, they say, in a state where game animals often concentrate on isolated water sources on public land. On the other side, those opposed to the ban claimed that a full ban simply goes too far, and that some sort of middle ground is more fair to the multitude of interests at play.

Matt Clark, a member of the Regional Advisory Council (which advises the Wildlife Board), said all invested parties exercised due diligence in upholding the ban.

“We stand by the process. None of us are considering changing our votes. I don’t think any of you should be either,” he said. Clark also threatened to resign if the Wildlife Board reversed their votes after such a lengthy and thorough evidence-gathering process.

How did the state of Utah come to the decision to ban trail cameras?

During the original vote a few months ago, the board found itself deadlocked 3 to 3 until chairman Kevin Albrecht cast the deciding vote. During that session, the state defined a trail camera as “a device that is not held or manually operated by a person; and captures images, video, or location data of wildlife and uses heat or motion to trigger the device.”

In addition to the testimonial evidence, the board also relied on two public surveys to help make the decision. Survey respondents did not care to ban conventional cameras (models that require users to visit the camera to retrieve images). But wireless cameras garnered a stronger reaction, with over 67 percent of respondents opposing their use.

The ban also includes the selling of pictures or trail camera footage to aid in hunting; as well as the use of night vision equipment. Farmers and ranchers may still use transmitting cameras to monitor livestock in areas rich with bears and cougars. Municipalities engaged in urban deer-management programs may also continue using wireless cameras.

Other western states like Arizona, Nevada, and Montana all carry similar bans on video equipment used for hunting.