"You can miss much while riding on a fast-moving ATV. A slow approach can result in better luck finding antlers, and it will certainly be easier on wildlife."
— Bill de Vergie, Colorado Parks and Wildlife area wildlife manager in Meeker, about the importance of respecting wildlife when shed-antler hunting.
Craig As antler collectors travel the backcountry in search of fresh sheds this spring, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials are asking them to avoid stressing wildlife still struggling to survive the cold weather and the lack of forage.
Many collectors use freshly shed antlers to create artwork, furniture and other goods. Although most are responsible, state wildlife officers occasionally receive reports of people on motorized vehicles chasing elk or deer herds in hopes of collecting a fresh pair of antlers dropped by a startled animal, according to a Parks and Wildlife news release.
Parks and Wildlife officials remind the public that harassing wildlife is not only unethical but also illegal and can result in significant fines for violators.
“We caution everyone to be respectful of animals still dealing with tough conditions,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager in Hot Sulphur Springs, in the release. “Loud noise, fast-moving vehicles and other disruptive human activity is a serious concern because it can stress animals that are trying to conserve energy, leading to higher mortality, especially in fawns and calves.”
In some cases, the spooked animals will seek shelter on private land, increasing the likelihood of game-damage conflicts, or they may run across highways and railroad tracks, leading to injuries or death from collisions.
“Hunting for shed antlers is a great way to get some fresh air and enjoy the outdoors,” Sidener said. “But remember to keep your distance from wildlife and respect closed areas.”
Some areas of Colorado close to all human activity during winter and into early spring to protect wildlife, including big game that migrates to lower elevations.
Violators can be fined by Parks and Wildlife officers for entering and collecting in closed areas.
Public land management agencies recommend that checking the latest rules and regulations regarding the use of motorized vehicles may prevent costly fines issued by their officers, and local sheriff departments and local law enforcement agencies advise honoring all “no trespassing” signs to avoid breaking the law.
Some suggestions wildlife managers offer to avoid stressing animals during this time is to keep a safe distance and consider searching for shed antlers on foot or horseback instead of by motorized vehicle.
“You can miss much while riding on a fast-moving ATV,” said Bill de Vergie, area wildlife manager from Meeker. “A slow approach can result in better luck finding antlers, and it will certainly be easier on wildlife.”
The National Park Service also is reminding shed-antler hunters on adjacent lands that all items, including deer and elk antlers, within the Dinosaur National Monument are protected by law and may not be removed for any reason, according to a Dinosaur National Monument news release.
In addition to antlers, archeological remains, fossils and items such as rocks, feathers, nests and plant material also are protected by law.
Collecting antlers and other protected items may result in a fine up to $5,000 and/or up to six months in prison, the release states.
The monument’s boundary is generally well-marked by fence and boundary signs, but antler hunters are responsible for knowing who manages the property they are on and the rules and regulations that govern the use of that property.
Joe Moylan can be reached at 970-875-1794 or firstname.lastname@example.org