For big game animals, winter is a stressful season when they can lose 30 percent or more of their body weight. The less energy they use unnecessarily the better their chances of surviving. 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 deer and elk antlers of special regulations that restrict when antlers can be collected from public lands.
“The message we want people to take home is that undisturbed wintering areas for big game are crucial,” said J Wenum, area wildlife manager in Gunnison. “Complying with these antler collection regulations is especially helpful to deer.”
In the Gunnison Basin, where antler shed collecting is popular, regulations are 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 to 10 a.m.
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.
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 and elk. These critical wintering areas are also Gunnison sage-grouse habitat. Antler shed regulations also protect grouse during their 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. “We have issued citations to violators.”
Collectors are advised to consult official sunset tables and to obtain accurate maps of the area. 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. To learn about road closures or to report road closure violations, call the BLM at 970-642-4940, the U.S. 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 in Colorado, go to: cpw.state.co.us.
Logo courtesy Colorado Parks and Wildlife