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The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources wants the public's help in bringing and end to a hawk-shooting spree.

Conservation Officer Chris Schulze said Thursday that as many as seven of the protected raptors have been shot and killed in and around the Cache County town of Smithfield in the past week.

DWR investigators are working with local police in trying to identify the person or persons responsible.

Schulze said it appears the hawks were all shot with small-caliber firearms, generally in the area of 400 West.

"[That is] a busy road. We're encouraging people to be observant and aware, and if they witness something suspicious to contact us," he said.

The shootings outraged Steven Slater, conservation science director for Salt Lake City-based HawkWatch International.

"It is unfortunate that this remains a big issue for us," Slater said. "It seems to happen more out in these rural areas where there's just not very many people to see."

Late-autumn and winter are dangerous times for hawks, since they tend to concentrate in areas, like farmland fields, where rodent populations provide abundant hunting.

Sitting on utility poles or trees denuded of vegetation, they can make easy targets.

"People shoot at them out of ignorance and for their own entertainment when they are most vulnerable," Slater said. "They don't realize raptors provide a real service by removing voles [and other rodents] that otherwise can cause extensive damage to [farmers'] fields."

Anyone with information on the hawk shootings is asked to call Schulze directly at 435-760-5910, or the Utah Turn in a Poacher Hotline at 1-800-662-3337. Caller identity can remain anonymous and monetary rewards are possible.

Twitter: @remims

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