Colorado Parks and Wildlife managers advise the public to be responsible and ethical around wintering wildlife, especially while collecting shed antlers late in the cold weather season. Officers are concerned about the growing number of collectors looking for sheds in closed areas, or pressuring big game while the animals are struggling to survive winter conditions.
While shed antler hunting is allowed in most of Colorado, wildlife officers say they have received reports of several unethical collectors entering restricted areas. A few have been seen chasing deer and elk in hopes the startled animals drop their antlers. Officers have ticketed several shed hunters for harassing wildlife this year.
“We are asking folks that want to hunt for sheds, that they do it in an ethical and legal manner and only in areas where it is allowed,” said Area Wildlife Manager Perry Will of Glenwood Springs. “We ask that you do not let dogs off leash to chase wildlife, trespass, go off-trail, harass animals with an OHV, or violate closures. If you do, we will enforce our laws and issue citations.”
Wildlife officials say in addition to shed hunting, other forms of outdoor recreation, including the irresponsible use of OHVs and ATVs, can be very stressful to wintering wildlife.
“This is about protecting these animals,” added Will. “People need to understand that when big game expends critical energy by running from human activity this time of year, it will lead to higher mortality. We will do what we need to do to prevent that.”
Two years ago, the CPW Commission approved limits to shed antler collecting in portions of Eagle, Pitkin, Garfield, and Routt counties. Between Jan. 1 through March 15, collecting shed antlers is prohibited on public land in game management units 25, 26, 35, 36, 43, 44, 47, 444, and 471. Between March 15 and May 15, collecting is allowed only between 10 a.m. through sunset.
Similar restrictions have been in place for several years on public land in game management units 54, 55, 66, 67 and 551 in Gunnison County, primarily to protect Gunnison sage-grouse. This winter, heavy snow in the area has been a significant concern, prompting CPW officials to implement a baiting operation to draw big game that have congregated along paved roads away from traffic. Additionally, CPW enacted emergency regulations prohibiting several forms of wildlife-related recreation on public lands below 9,500 feet in an area from the community of Sargents to five miles west of Blue Mesa Dam, and from Crested Butte to Lake City. The regulation prohibits lion hunting, small game hunting, suspends all night-hunting permits and extends the restriction on the collection of antlers and skulls of wildlife through May 15.
Wildlife managers remind shed hunters and all outdoor recreationists that keeping their distance from wintering big game is the most effective way to prevent animal stress and mortality. They say even searching for antlers on foot or horseback can create stressful conditions for wildlife if people get too close.
“We understand that people enjoy hunting sheds, but we ask everyone to be legal and ethical,” said Will. “The best option is to follow the laws and keep your distance, and maybe wait until big game has moved to summer range to begin looking for sheds.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife urges anyone that observes illegal activity to contact their local wildlife office, or to remain anonymous contact Operation Game Thief at 877-265-6648. Rewards are available for information that leads to a citation.
For more information about shed collection restrictions in the Northwest Region, contact Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s Glenwood Springs office at 970-947-2920. For information about restrictions in Gunnison County, call CPW’s office in Gunnison at 970-641-7060