Game officials restrict shed antler hunting
Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding shed antler hunters that new restrictions on collecting sheds on public lands in portions of Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin and Routt counties will be strictly enforced.
The restrictions in these counties was approved by the CPW Commission last year to reduce the significant disturbance of big game animals struggling to survive after a long winter.
These limits are in effect on public lands in game management units 25, 26, 35, 36, 43, 44, 47, 444 and 471 (see map):
• No antler shed hunting allowed from Jan. 1 through March 14.
• Only between the hours of 10 a.m. and sunset March 15 through May 15.
“We ask people to follow these restrictions to protect their wildlife,” said Perry Will, area wildlife manager in Glenwood Springs. “If anyone is caught violating the law, they will be fined and assessed points against their hunting and fishing privileges.”
Similar restrictions are already in place in Gunnison County, instituted several years ago to protect Gunnison sage-grouse and big game animals.
Each year, male ungulates grow antlers used for display and battles with competitors during the fall mating season. By mid- to late winter, the antlers begin falling off naturally and the process begins again.
During late winter into early spring, considered the prime collecting period, shed hunters fan out across the state in search of fresh antlers that artisans use to make furniture, knife handles and art projects, or are sold to make dog treats.
Often involving large groups or entire families, the practice is becoming more popular across Colorado and other spots around the country.
Wildlife officials believe most collectors are conscientious and careful, but concerns arise when some search for sheds on noisy, fast-moving ATVs and off-road vehicles. In addition, a growing number of collectors use dogs trained to find shed antlers. When allowed to run off-leash, many of these dogs chase deer and elk, occasionally causing severe injuries and extreme stress.
Running from noise and dogs adds to the difficult conditions the animals already endure in the winter.
“That’s just about the worst thing that can happen to them at this time of year,” said Will. “Many people do not realize how much impact stress has on wildlife. It’s one of the contributing factors to higher mortality.”
Will said any unnecessary movement during the cold months causes big game to use up fat stores quickly, leading to the animal’s death or the deaths of their unborn calves and fawns due to poor body condition.
Wildlife managers remind shed hunters that keeping their distance from wintering big game is the most effective way to prevent animal stress and mortality. Even searching for antlers on foot or horseback can create stressful conditions for wildlife.
“We understand that people enjoy hunting sheds, but we ask everyone to be legal and ethical,” said Will. “The best option is to follow the laws and keep your distance, and maybe wait until big game has moved to summer range to begin looking for sheds.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges anyone that observes illegal activity to contact their local wildlife officer, or to remain anonymous, contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to a citation.
For more information about the new shed collection restrictions, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920.
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