Shed hunting restricted in western Moffat County due to taxing winter

Lauren Blair

— A temporary ban has been placed on hunting deer and elk antler sheds in western Moffat County and northwestern Rio Blanco county through April 15, according to a press release from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Wildlife have endured a difficult winter, with warming temperatures in February book-ended by heavy early and late winter snow. An additional 12 to 18 inches of snow fell in late February.

“This area is really popular with shed hunters, and when people start pressuring them, they start moving around and they burn off those fat reserves,” said CPW spokesperson Mike Porras. “They can essentially starve to death, and their unborn calves and fawns essentially starve to death. They’re depleted almost entirely.”

Human disturbance related to shed hunting can cause the animals to run or even stampede, burning precious fat reserves when they’re at their most vulnerable.

It can also drive deer and elk onto private property where they can damage haystacks and other produced crops, causing significant financial losses to area farmers and ranchers, Bill de Vergie, area wildlife manager in Meeker, said in the release.

“We haven’t had any growth for spring yet, so they’re kind of on their last reserves,” said Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Mike Swaro. “Anything we can do to protect deer and elk to get over this last hump until the vegetation comes back.”

The collection or possession of shed deer and elk antlers and pronghorn sheaths is prohibited on all public lands in Game Management Units 1, 2, 201, 10, 21, 11 and 3, according to the release. Similar restrictions have already been placed in other areas of the state.

The closure is rare for the region, though seasonal closures by CPW are routine statewide. Winter conditions in Moffat County have been at their worst north and west of Maybell and near the Wyoming border, Swaro said.

Shed hunting has increased in popularity in the last decade, he added, with many shed hunters traveling to the area from out-of-state.

CPW will add extra patrols to both educate and deter shed hunters during the closure. Those who blatantly disregard the restrictions can receive a citation accompanied by fines and points against their hunting privileges.

Most responses have been positive and respectful of wildlife, however, Swaro said.

“At the core, everybody loves the resource and loves wildlife,” he said. “Overall, we’re just hoping to protect the critters from moving around,” adding that all recreationalists should take extra care to avoid stirring deer and elk herds should they cross paths with them.

For more information about shed collection restrictions in the Northwest Region, contact CPW’s Meeker office at 970-878-6090 or the Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920.

CPW urges anyone that observes illegal activity to call the Meeker office, or to remain anonymous, contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to a citation.

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