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You need to leave deer antlers on the ground in Colorado this spring

Colorado’s deer drop their antlers at different times in the winter.

FAIRPLAY, Colo. — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has issued a reminder that the collection of shed antlers on all public lands west of Interstate 25 is prohibited from Jan. 1 through April 30.

CPW said the closure, which has been place since 2018, is intended to protect wintering animals from unnecessary human disturbance during the late winter and early spring months.

Big game and sage grouse species live in a basic survival mode during the winter when food is scarce, according to CPW. If forced to move and burn calories unnecessarily, wildlife can lose vital energy stores that they put on in the summer and fall to help last them until the spring green-up.

A CPW wildlife officer also said that rodents and predators chew on antler sheds to get much-needed minerals like calcium.

CPW said a strong snowpack in western Colorado makes it all more important for wildlife to be alleviated of the additional stress of human disturbance.

Violators of these regulations may face a $137 fine per violation, in addition to separate fines for illegal possession of each shed antler and five license suspension points that are assessed for each violation.

In addition, apart from the shed collection rules, harassing wildlife remains illegal and CPW officers will cite individuals for violating this regulation, too. Harassing wildlife includes a $137 fine that also carries 10 license suspension points.

Additional regulations are also in place for the Gunnison Basin. CPW said in Game Management Units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551, it is illegal to search for or possess antlers and horns on public lands between legal sunset and 10 a.m. from May 1 through May 15.

Credit: Colorado Parks and Wildlife

“There continues to be a lot of discussion and debate about the impacts of shed antler hunting across the West,” said CPW Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond of Gunnison. “Comparing shed antler hunting to other forms of recreation isn’t necessarily an apples to apples comparison. Shed hunters specifically target our best winter-range habitats where animals are or have been, and the activity is more popular than ever, leading to an increasingly competitive environment. As conservation-minded, big-game enthusiasts, it’s one place where we can collectively minimize potential impacts to wintering wildlife.”

Colorado’s deer drop or cast their antlers at different times in the winter.

“This winter has been harder for wildlife in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties," said Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Mike Swaro of Craig. "This is a critical time of year for elk, deer and other wildlife that are trying to survive winter. The last thing wildlife needs this time of year is added pressure from people looking for antlers."

“These regulations will be most effective and have the greatest positive impact on our wintering wildlife when we work together within our communities to monitor and enforce them,” Diamond said. “Don’t tolerate the behavior of those that would cheat. Let’s make sure we are all doing what’s best for wildlife and help give them a break during their toughest time of year.”

“CPW determined closures were needed because shed-antler collecting has become a very popular recreational activity,” said wildlife officer Cassidy English of Colorado Springs. “To make matters worse, CPW has seen an uptick in unethical behavior by shed-antler hunters who were seen chasing deer, elk and moose until their antlers fell off. Obviously, this puts undue stress on already stressed out animals.”

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