For wildlife, winter is a stressful season when they can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight. Consequently, people should avoid disturbing Colorado’s wild critters during cold weather months.

To minimize disturbance of animals in the Gunnison Basin, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding people who collect big-game shed antlers of special regulations that restrict when antlers can be collected from public lands.

“Animals are under a lot of stress during the winter; the less energy they use unnecessarily the better their chances of surviving,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison for the agency. “Please, don’t disturb big game on the winter range.”

Those who violate the regulations can be fined $70, be assessed five penalty points against their hunting and fishing privileges and any antlers collected will be confiscated. Harassing wildlife is also illegal under state statute and can result in additional fines.

In the Gunnison Basin, where antler shed collecting is popular, there are two regulations in place to prevent disturbance of animals on public lands in big game management units 54, 55, 551, 66 and 67. Collection of shed antlers is prohibited on public lands within those units from Jan. 1 through March 14. From March 15 through May 15, shed antler collection is prohibited from legal sunset until 10 a.m.

Collecting of shed antlers for commercial use has grown during the last decade. At this time of year human activity in winter range can cause significant disturbance to deer, elk and to the Gunnison sage-grouse during the birds’ mating period in early spring.

“These regulations have been in place for several years now, so collectors should know about them; no one can plead ignorance,” Wenum said.

Collectors are advised to consult official sunset tables and to obtain accurate maps of the areas. Anyone who has questions about the regulations can contact the Colorado Parks and Wildlife office in Gunnison.

Collectors and other recreationists also should be aware that in order to protect Gunnison sage-grouse leks, the Bureau of Land Management and Gunnison County close numerous roads throughout the basin to motorized travel during the winter and early spring. Gates are locked and a notice is posted at those locations.  Additionally, new travel management plans are being implemented by the BLM and U.S. Forest Service. To learn about road closures or to report road closure violations, call the BLM at 970-642-4940, the US Forest Service at 970-641-0471; or Gunnison County at 970-641-8201.

Anyone who sees people collecting antlers during closure hours or who suspects other wildlife violations is asked to call the Gunnison Parks and Wildlife office at 970-641-7060.

To learn more about wildlife, go to: http://wildlife.state.co.us.

Logo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife

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