Red Deer antler shed on a forest road. Photo Credit: SzymonBartosz (iStock).

Photo Credit: SzymonBartosz (iStock).

Yet another constant reminder that wildlife is never far in Colorado, it's not uncommon to find antlers when you're exploring. Finding the remnants of animal shed is always exciting, often inspiring hopes of bringing the natural treasure home – whether that's to put on display or to give to the pups as a treat.

Believe it or not, keeping antlers (and horns) that are found in Colorado isn't quite as simple as it sounds.

In 2018, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission held a vote and the results were unanimous – the public can not keep antlers or horns left behind by animals that are found west of I-25 between January 1 and April 30. This restriction applies to antler shed hunters, but also the average outdoor recreation enthusiast that may happen to stumble on an antler during another activity.

While keeping an antler that was shed by an animal, regardless of the time of year it is found, might seem innocent enough, there's a very real reason for this rule – stress reduction.

If humans are entering habitats en masse where deer, elk, and moose are commonly found, along with other wildlife, during the winter months, it adds another layer of stress during a time of the year when survival is already difficult.

According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this "stress can result in decreased body condition, increased mortality and decreased fawn/calf survival."

The restriction date on antler collection ends on April 30, as this tends to be when this difficult season lets up. This date range is the same as that found in Wyoming, with that state prohibiting collection west of the Continental Divide during that time frame.

It's also worth noting that while antler shed collecting is prohibited in this part of the state during the start of the year, other outdoor recreation activities are still allowed. According to officials, this difference exists because antler shed hunters will tend to seek out areas where animals are wintering, increasing the likelihood of disturbances. Another important note is that many State Wildlife Areas have seasonal closures for all human access, which are also often used to help prevent stressing big game populations.

Those caught violating these restrictions are subject to a $137 fine per violation.

"The act of shed antler hunting, as well as the illegal possession of each shed antler, are now viewed as separate offenses subject to individual fines. In addition to fines, each violation carries five license suspension points that are assessed against the violator's privilege to apply for, purchase, or exercise the benefits conferred by any licenses issued by CPW. If a person accumulates 20 or more license suspension points within a five-year period, that person could be suspended from hunting and fishing for up to five years.

In addition, apart from the new shed collection rules, harassing wildlife remains illegal and CPW officers will cite individuals for violating this existing regulation. Harassing wildlife is a $137 violation that also includes 10 license suspension points."

Private lands are not included in the shed collection policy, however lawful access must be given by landowners. Entering private lands without permission is trespassing.

Anyone who witnesses illegal shed collection is asked to contact their local wildlife office.

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