Gunnison, CO – Winter is a stressful time for wildlife, a time when they need peace and quiet. Colorado Parks and Wildlife is reminding people who collect shed antlers that special regulations in the Gunnison Basin restrict when antlers can be collected from public lands.
It can be tough for animals to get through the winter. Deer and elk can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight during the cold-weather months and often struggle to find food.
“Animals are under a lot of stress during the winter; the less energy they use unnecessarily the better their chance of surviving the winter,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison for the agency. “We request that people not disturb big game on the winter range.”
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 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.
Violations will result in confiscation of antlers, a $70 fine and five penalty points against the offender’s hunting and fishing privileges. Harassing wildlife is also illegal under state statute and can result in additional fines.
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 have closed 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 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.