Colorado Parks and Wildlife crack down on illegal antler collecting

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KJCT/KKCO) -- You could face steep fines if you're caught collecting shed antlers in Western Colorado. The season for "shed hunting" will open on May 1.

Since Jan. 1, restrictions on collecting shed antlers have been in effect on all public lands west of Interstate 25, those restrictions go through April 30. Additional restrictions apply in the Gunnison Basin.

The new season guidelines were launched last year, and Colorado Parks and Wildlife says they focused on educating the public. Now, they're shifting that focus to enforcement.

If you're caught collecting antlers before May 1, you can be cited, fined, and have points marked against your hunting or fishing license.

Why has the season been adjusted? To protect deer and elk across the state.

According to CPW Public Information Officer Mike Porras, shed hunters have been putting pressure on wildlife while they're most vulnerable.

“This is the most sensitive time of the year for our elk and our deer," Porras said. "They’re basically surviving on their fat stores. When they’re pressured, sometimes up to a dozen times a day, their fat stores burn off quickly and they, essentially, can starve to death.”

Shed hunters, Porras said, might not be the only people recreating on public land and potentially disturbing wildlife.

But, shed hunting unlike other forms of recreation can be regulated to reduce stress for the animals.

According to Porras, by May, the landscape should be greener. Grazing conditions should improve. Often elk and deer move to higher elevations. This makes it less dangerous for herds to come in contact with humans, like those that are hoping to find their antlers.

Editors note: An earlier version of this story stated across Colorado, it was not legal to pick up antlers, at least not yet. That statement has been corrected to reflect a Colorado Parks and Wildlife News release that states, "Since Jan. 1, restrictions on collecting shed antlers have been in effect on all public lands west of Interstate 25, through April 30. Additional restrictions apply in the Gunnison Basin."