CPW reminds shed antler hunters of restrictions, responsibilities
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. - Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding shed antler hunters that new restrictions on collecting sheds on public lands in portions of Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield and Routt counties will be strictly enforced.
The restrictions in these counties was approved by the CPW Commission last year to reduce the significant disturbance of big game animals struggling to survive after a long winter.
These limits are in effect on public lands in game management units 25, 26, 35, 36, 43, 44, 47, 444,and 471:
"We ask people to follow these restrictions to protect their wildlife," said Perry Will, area wildlife manager in Glenwood Springs. "If anyone is caught violating the law, they will be fined and assessed points against their hunting and fishing privileges."
For a map of Colorado's GMUs, go to www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Maps/BigGameGMUmap.pdf#search=GMU%20map
Similar restriction are already in place in game management units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551 in Gunnison County, instituted several years ago to protect Gunnison sage-grouse and big game animals.
Each year, male ungulates grow antlers used for display and battles with competitors during the fall mating season. By mid to late winter, the antlers begin falling off naturally and the process begins again.
During late winter into early spring, considered the prime collecting period, shed hunters fan out across the state in search of fresh antlers that artisans use to make furniture, knife handles and art projects, or are sold to make dog treats.
Often involving large groups or entire families, the practice is becoming more popular across the country and Colorado.
Wildlife officials believe most collectors are conscientious and careful, but concerns arise when some search for sheds on noisy, fast-moving ATVs and off-road vehicles. In addition, a growing number of collectors use dogs trained to find shed antlers. When allowed to run off-leash, many of these dogs chase deer and elk, occasionally causing severe injuries and extreme stress.
"That's just about the worst thing that can happen to them at this time of year," said Will. "Many people do not realize how much impact stress has on wildlife. It's one of the contributing factors to higher mortality."
Will ads that any unnecessary movement during the cold weather months causes big game to use up their fat stores very quickly with little chance of replenishing it, leading to the animal's death or the deaths of their unborn calves and fawns due to poor body condition.
Wildlife managers remind shed hunters that keeping their distance from wintering big game is the most effective way to prevent animal stress and mortality. Even searching for antlers on foot or horseback can create stressful conditions for wildlife.
"We understand that people enjoy hunting sheds, but we ask everyone to be legal and ethical," said Will. "The best option is to follow the laws and keep your distance, and maybe wait until big game has moved to summer range to begin looking for sheds."
Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges anyone that observes illegal activity to contact their local wildlife officer, or to remain anonymous, contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to a citation.
For more information about the new shed collection restrictions, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife's Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920.
For more information about living with wildlife, go to www.cpw.state.co.us/learn/Pages/LivingwithWildlife.aspx
CPW is an enterprise agency, relying primarily on license sales, state parks fees and registration fees to support its operations, including: 42 state parks and more than 350 wildlife areas covering approximately 900,000 acres, management of fishing and hunting, wildlife watching, camping, motorized and non-motorized trails, boating and outdoor education. CPW's work contributes approximately $6 billion in total economic impact annually throughout Colorado.