Collecting shed antlers still illegal through end of April

The Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind the public that collecting shed antlers remains illegal through the end of April.
Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 4:16 PM MDT
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STATEWIDE, Colo. (KJCT) - The Colorado Parks and Wildlife wants to remind the public that collecting shed antlers remains illegal through the end of April. This applies to all public lands west of Interstate 25 in Colorado.

The restriction is part of an effort to help protect big-game animals and sage grouse (a bird) from human disturbance during the critical winter and early spring months.

“There continues to be a lot of discussion and debate about the impacts of shed antler hunting across the West,” said Brandon Diamond of Gunnison, an area wildlife manager. “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.”

Spring is around the corner, and although warmer temperatures are near, winter-depleted wildlife remain in basic survival mode during this time while nutritional quality and amount of food is scarce.

Conditions across Colorado varied through the winter, but a majority of western Colorado experienced a rather strong snowpack. This can cause added stress to animals, giving importance to the reduction of human impact and disturbance.

“This winter has been harder for wildlife in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties,” said Mike Swaro of Craig, an assistant area wildlife manager. “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 statewide restrictions initially went in place in 2018, lasting from Jan. 1 through April 30 annually.

Additional restrictions are in place for Gunnison Basin. In Game Management Units 54, 55, 66, 67, and 551 do not allow the search for or the possession of antlers or horns on public lands from legal sunset until 10 a.m. from May 1 through May 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,” 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.”

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 are subject to a $137 fine and five license suspense points per violation. Violators may also face separate fines and points for illegal possession of each shed antler collected outside of the established season.

Harassing wildlife is also a serious issue, and individuals that do so will also be cited by CPW and may face a $137 fine and 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 from 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.”

More information on shed collection restrictions can be found on the CPW website.

CPW is asking that people with information regarding illegal shed collection call their local CPW office or contact the Operation Game Thief (OGT) hotline at 1-877-265-6648. Tips made to OGT may earn financial rewards and individuals who call OGT may also remain anonymous.

Colorado’s deer and other antlered animals drop or cast their antlers at different times throughout the winter season. Factors that adjust this may include the animal’s age and condition as well as winter severity.

Deer typically shed their antlers from mid-January through the end of March. Elk typically start in February and last through April and moose typically drop their palmate antlers from November through January.