Shed hunters going off trails are tearing up public lands

With the weather warming and the snow melted, people are getting to enjoy outdoor recreation again. One of these activities is shed hunting, which Wendy Reynolds, manager for the Bureau of Land Management Little Snake Field Office, said either can be good family fun or a destructive sport.

In early spring, deer and elk start shedding their antlers. This is a prime time for people seeking antlers to find the trophies as they are scattered across public land. But while this is an activity the BLM widely supports, some people are approaching it without considering the impact on the land, Reynolds said.

“The problem is when we have people taking their four-wheelers on areas without roads and trails,” she said. “So we get resource damage.”

The people causing this damage, likely aren’t the casual or recreational shed hunter, Reynolds said.

“A lot of folks take those antlers that they find and are able to turn that into a commercial shed hunting thing,” she said. “Oftentimes, people will pair up in twos and threes and do a grid search. That’s where we get the resource damage.”

People who take a systematic approach to shed hunting have taken trucks and four-wheelers off trail, cut fences and, in the process, torn up public lands.

“We prefer to keep (shed hunting) as a family activity and a recreational activity rather than a commercial gathering effort,” Reynolds said.

Steve Barclay, refuge manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for Browns Park, said that some shed hunters even will push herds in the hope of getting the animals’ antlers to shed while running or jumping. This disturbance to the herds can be harmful since the animals need to be building up fat this time of year.

People can’t legally shed hunt in Browns Park since it is a national refuge, but Barclay supports shed hunting as a family activity on public lands. It might function better if there were more regulations, he said.

“I would just support looking at options such as a season and maybe even permits,” he said. Permits would help educate shed hunters and “a season would be important because then a season could be set following the time that the animals have already shed.”

The BLM is working on educating shed hunters and keeping more BLM staff and Moffat County Sheriff’s officers in public lands to make sure people are staying on designated routes, roads and trails, Reynolds said.

“It is 1.3 million acres and it’s really hard to have resources out there. It’s getting more and more popular and so there’s some unintended consequences,” she said.

Contact Erin Fenner at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.

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