Follow the rules picking up antlers

Elk antlers have a single main beam with smaller prongs called tines. Antlers are shed each winter and may provide an important source of calcium for many wildlife species such as rodents and deer.

People headed out this month searching for dropped deer and elk antlers are being reminded by the Bureau of Land Management about travel restrictions on public lands in northwest Colorado and the Gunnison Basin.

According to the BLM’s Little Snake Field Office in Craig, it is illegal to travel off existing roads in a motor vehicle on BLM public lands in that area.

“Shed-antler hunting is a great way to spend time enjoying public lands with friends and family,” BLM Little Snake field manager Wendy Reynolds said. “While most people responsibly search for antlers on foot or horseback, the few people that illegally leave roads on ATVs or other motorized vehicles cause tremendous damage every spring.”

In addition to the concern about significant damage to wet spring soils, there is concern about harassing wildlife at what still is a stressful time.

“Shed hunters need to keep in mind that wildlife is especially vulnerable to disturbance during the early spring, when their winter reserves are depleted but spring green-up can still be weeks away,” Reynolds said.

Winter is a stressful season for wildlife, when it’s not unusual for animals to lose 30 percent or more of their body weight.

A citation for riding an ATV off existing roads or in a closed area can result in fines of $250. Harassing wildlife may result in a $200 fine.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife enforces special regulations to prevent disturbance of animals on public lands from antler collectors in the Gunnison Basin.

Regulations for big-game-management units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67 prohibit antler collecting on public lands from Jan. 1 through March 14.

From March 15 through May 15, shed-antler collection is prohibited from legal sunset until 10 a.m.

“Animals are under a lot of stress during the winter,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison for the agency. “The less energy they use unnecessarily the better their chances of surviving.”

Violators can be fined $70 and assessed five penalty points against their hunting and fishing privileges. Any antlers collected will be confiscated. Additional penalties may be assessed for harassing wildlife.

Collectors and other recreationists also should be aware that numerous roads throughout the basin are closed to motorized travel during the winter and early spring to protect Gunnison sage grouse.

Additionally, new travel-management plans are being implemented by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service.

Information about the road closures is available from the BLM at 970-642-4940, the U.S. Forest Service at 970-641-0471, or Gunnison County at 970-641-8201.


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