Regulations surround collecting shed antlers

Deer and elk lose weight in the winter, but it’s not all from the waistline.

Wild ungulates also drop a few pounds of antlers each winter, with deer losing their antlers beginning in late January and elk about one month later.

Biologist say deer, elk and other big game may lose 30 percent or more of their body weight during the winter, an amount that increases if the animal has to burn extra calories avoiding human disturbance.

The “why” of the human disturbance derives from the lure of finding discarded antlers (called “sheds”), a popular endeavor whether it’s for commercial profit or simply neighborhood bragging rights.

To prevent that disturbance in the wildlife-rich Gunnison Basin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has for several years enforced restrictions outlining when shed antlers can be collected from public lands.

“The message we want people to take home is that undisturbed wintering areas for big game are crucial,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison. “Complying with these antler collection regulations is especially helpful to deer.”

In the Gunnison Basin, collecting shed antlers is prohibited on public lands within big game management units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67 from Jan. 1 through March 14.

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

Violators can be fined $70, be assessed five penalty points against their hunting and fishing privileges and any antlers collected will be confiscated.

Harassing wildlife is also illegal under state statute and can result in additional fines.

“These regulations have been in place for several years now, so collectors should know about them; no one can plead ignorance,” Wenum said. “We have issued citations to violators.”

Sage grouse also benefit from the closures during the bird’s early spring mating period.

For more information, call the Gunnison office of Parks and Wildlife at 970-641-7060.

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