COLORADO Parks and Wildlife is reminding the public that collection of shed antlers on all public lands west of Interstate 25 is prohibited from Jan. 1 through April 30.
This restriction is in place to help protect wintering big-game animals and sage grouse from human disturbance during the critical winter and early spring months.
Wildlife officers and biologists continue to educate the public about the negative impacts to wildlife caused by irresponsible shed collection and winter recreational activity. Violators of these regulations may face a $137 fine and five license suspension points per violation, in addition to separate fines and points for the illegal possession of each shed antler collected outside of the established season.
Apart from the shed collection rules, harassing wildlife remains illegal and CPW officers will cite individuals for violating this state statute. Harassing wildlife includes a $137 fine that also carries 10 license suspension points.
“CPW determined closures were needed because shed-antler collecting has become a very popular recreational activity,” said Cassidy English, a wildlife officer in 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.”
Though spring is soon to arrive and warmer temperatures are ahead, winter-depleted wildlife remain in basic survival mode during this time when food is scarce and before the nutritional quality of forage improves later in spring. After already getting through the brunt of deep winter, these animals need every last calorie to survive the final push to a spring green-up.
Conditions across Colorado have varied this winter, but a strong snowpack across much of Western Colorado makes it all the more important for wildlife to be protected from the additional stress of human disturbance.
“This winter has been harder for wildlife in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties,” said Mike Swaro, assistant area wildlife manager in 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.”
In addition to the statewide restrictions in place since 2018, additional special regulations are in place for the Gunnison Basin. 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 1-15.
“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,” said Brandon Diamond, Gunnison area wildlife manager. “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 encourages people with information about illegal shed collection to call their local CPW office or the Operation Game Thief (OGT) hotline at 1-877-265-6648. Tips to OGT may earn monetary rewards. Any individuals who call OGT may remain anonymous.
Colorado’s cervids (members of the deer family) drop or cast their antlers at different times in the winter. This happens based on a series of age, health conditions, and winter severity variables.
Deer in Colorado are known to shed their antlers from mid-January through March. Elk may start shedding in February, running through April, and moose typically drop their palmate antlers from November through January.
To learn more about shed collection restrictions, see this question and answer section on shed antlers on the CPW website.