Antler hunters asked to help big game survive the winter in Northwest Colorado | CraigDailyPress.com

Antler hunters asked to help big game survive the winter in Northwest Colorado

Craig Daily Press Staff Report

BLM reminds antler hunters to stay on roads and keep a comfortable distance from big game to reduce stress on wildlife. Pictured: New Castle resident Tom Fresques finds an antler in Northwest Colorado.

— Hunting and gathering antlers shed by elk and mule deer has become a popular spring activity in Northwest Colorado.

The Bureau of Land Management Little Snake Field Office in Craig asks antler hunters to avoid disturbing big game animals currently facing the stress of a hard winter.

"Please avoid getting close enough to disturb deer and elk, and keep motorized vehicles on legal roads," said BLM Little Snake Field Manager Bruce Sillitoe in a news release.

Disturbance causes them to expend more energy and burn through their winter reserves faster.

"Mule deer and elk are especially vulnerable to disturbance this year given the heavy snowfall that has made it particularly hard for them to forage," said David Boyd, BLM’s public affairs specialist for the Northwest Colorado District.

It is illegal to travel cross-country or off existing roads in a motor vehicle while collecting antlers on BLM lands in the Little Snake Field Office.

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"Most people responsibly search for antlers on foot or horseback, but the few people that illegally leave roads on ATVs or other motorized vehicles cause tremendous wildlife disturbance and resource damage every spring," stated Sillitoe in the news release.

Driving off-road can also have long-term impacts to habitat.

"Off-road driving can cause significant damage anytime, but moist spring soils are especially susceptible," Boyd said. "The resulting damage can cause erosion and serious impacts to important wildlife habitat."

BLM rangers will be patrolling popular shed hunting areas this spring to ensure compliance with existing travel management rules and wildlife protection rules.

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.