Photo Credit: David Hannigan
Shed Antler and Horn Collection in Colorado Information
What are the new regulations?
In 2018, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to prohibit shed antler and horn collection on all public lands west of I-25 from January 1 through April 30, annually.
In addition, to further protect the Gunnison sage-grouse, the new regulations include a time-of-day closure in the Gunnison Basin May 1 - 15 from sunset to 10 a.m. This closure applies to public lands in Game Management Units 54, 55, 66, 67, 551.
Why is this necessary? How does shed collection hurt deer, elk and other wintering wildlife?
The purpose of this regulation is to reduce stress on wintering big game animals during the time of year when big game animals such as deer, elk, pronghorn and moose are most vulnerable. Stress can result in decreased body condition, increased mortality and decreased fawn/calf survival. These regulations protect the health of Colorado's big game herds and other wintering wildlife.
Winter can be extremely difficult on wildlife as body weight is down and access to food is very limited. The survival of wildlife relies heavily on keeping as many calories as possible until the green shoots pop up, heralding spring's return.
The Western Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) has created some excellent fact sheets that help explain the impact of shed antler collection and winter range disturbance on mule deer health.
Why were these dates chosen?
In most parts of western Colorado, winter conditions affecting big game typically last into late April or early May, and big game are still losing weight and body condition. The April 30 date is intended to help minimize additional stress during this critical time frame.
These dates closely align with restrictions in neighboring states. For instance, Wyoming prohibits the collection of shed antlers and horns from January 1 through April 30 on public lands west of the Continental Divide.
Why are other kinds of recreation and hunting still allowed in areas where shed collection is restricted?
While it is true that these restrictions may overlap with some hunting seasons, the amount of pressure put on the animals will be limited by the number of hunting license holders. Shed antler hunters focus their efforts on specific areas where big game are wintering with a very high likelihood of disturbing and displacing those animals. Some shed collectors use OHVs and snowmobiles in their search. Loud, fast-moving OHVs and snowmobiles are major sources of wildlife stress. Also, the CPW Commission does not regulate other forms of recreation such as hikers and bikers on other land-use agency properties such as the Bureau of Land Management lands or National Forest land. CPW does, however, manage State Wildlife Areas across western Colorado, many of which have seasonal closures to all human use in order to protect wintering big game animals.
What is CPW going to do to let all recreationists know about the shed collection restriction?
As more people enjoy each season that Colorado has to offer, and new forms of recreation continue to emerge, it will be very important for CPW staff to work with recreation organizations, land-use management agencies and local communities to get the word out. Protecting our wintering wildlife is something we have to do together. Everyone involved in recreation needs to help educate people who are out on public lands. We will also be working with local visitors bureaus to help get the information to people visiting Colorado. CPW will post signs, send press releases, work with sportspeople's groups and partners, news media, social media and other communication avenues to ensure the public is well informed about this new change.
What are the penalties for violations?
Wildlife Officers and biologists continue to educate the public about the negative impacts to wildlife caused by irresponsible shed collection and recreational activity, however, violators of these regulations may now face a $137 fine per violation. The act of shed antler hunting, as well as the illegal possession of each shed antler, are now viewed as separate offenses subject to individual fines. In addition to fines, each violation carries five license suspension points that are assessed against the violator's privilege to apply for, purchase, or exercise the benefits conferred by any licenses issued by CPW. If a person accumulates 20 or more license suspension points within a five-year period, that person could be suspended from hunting and fishing for up to five years.
In addition, apart from the new shed collection rules, harassing wildlife remains illegal and CPW officers will cite individuals for violating this existing regulation. Harassing wildlife is a $137 violation that also includes 10 license suspension points.
What about private lands?
The CPW Commission chose not to include private lands in its decision to enact a shed antler collection closure in Colorado. However, it is unlawful to collect sheds on private property unless a person has lawful access to that private property. Possession of antlers or horns on private property without lawful access is prohibited.
Is shed and horn collection growing in popularity?
Although shed collection is not a new activity in Colorado, there is evidence that it is rapidly growing in popularity. PWC Commissioners and members of the public have noted seeing a substantial increase in shed collection around the state, likely due to the substantial profits collectors make from the sale of shed horns and antlers. Once considered a fun, recreational activity for families or the source of a unique medium for artisans, shed collection is now a major business. As a result, a growing number of people are participating. Unfortunately, too many shed collectors are focusing on financial gain rather than protecting wildlife, creating the need for new regulations.
In some states, you need a permit to collect sheds. Is Colorado considering the same?
The requirement of a priced permit for collecting shed antlers and horns is a novel concept that would be precedent-setting in the western U.S. Although the CPW Commission decided not to require a permit at its latest meeting, it is an issue it may revisit in the future.
Will the BLM/Forest Service/Sheriff's Office, enforce the new regulation as well?
These agencies may notify CPW if they catch violators and coordinate with CPW officers to take enforcement action.
Once an antler or horn drops, why is it still the purview of CPW? It is no longer 'wildlife.'
Shed antlers or shed horns are still considered "wildlife" based on the statutory definition, which includes any parts thereof and whether alive or dead.
Have there been past restrictions?
Previously there were two localized antler collection closures in place, one for public lands in the Gunnison Basin and one for public lands in the Eagle and Roaring Fork Valleys. The problem with these closures was that it was moving the antler collection pressure to other areas of the state with important winter range habitats. The only other restriction that is also in place is the harassment of wildlife statute, which can be written to any individual who is harassing wildlife, including shed collectors.
What if I'm doing something unrelated, like hiking, and find an antler?
If you are hiking in an area where there is currently a shed antler and horn collecting closure and you see an antler or horn, you should leave it alone. There is no way for a CPW officer to differentiate between you and someone who entered the area for the purpose of shed collecting.
What do I do if I see someone collecting antlers or horns illegally?
Anyone that observes illegal activity is urged to contact their local wildlife office.