STATEWIDE — On Thursday, January 11, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to approve the creation of a seasonal closure on shed antler and horn collection on all public lands west of I-25 from January 1 through April 30 annually. Thursday’s decision will take effect on these public lands beginning March 1. Additionally, in order to maintain protection for the Gunnison sage-grouse, the new regulations include a closure to collection of shed antlers on public lands May 1 to May 15 from sunset to 10 a.m. in the Gunnison basin (Game Management Units 54, 55, 66, 67, 551).
CPW staff have been examining the issue for months, first introducing an antler and horn collection issue paper in September of 2017 that suggested a closure be put in place on all public lands west of I-25 from January 1 through April 30 annually. The purpose of this request was to reduce the recreational impacts from shed hunting on wintering big game animals during the time of year when deer, elk, pronghorn, and moose are most vulnerable to stress. The result of this stress can be decreased body condition, increased mortality, and decreased fawn/calf survival.
The CPW Commission discussed the pros and cons of implementing these changes at its January 11 meeting. Much of the debate between commissioners at Thursday’s meeting revolved around the potential for including an associated license/permit for shed antler and horn collection. Wildlife is synonymous with Colorado and their health and sustainability is a primary focus for CPW staff. The seasonal closure, also being discussed, was met with broad public and agency support.
During the discussion on whether to approve just the seasonal collection closure, or a closure with a fee-based permit, Commissioner Alexander Zipp said, “I’d like to start with just a time restriction, without the fees. This is not a money-making decision. This is a wildlife regulation matter.”
Winter can be extremely difficult on wildlife as body weight is down and access to food is very limited. The survival of wildlife relies heavily on keeping as many calories as possible until the green shoots pop up, heralding spring’s return.
Commissioner Robert Bray summed up the discussion, saying he’d like CPW staff to further research a fee or registration option, but more importantly to create an education campaign on why these new regulations are being put into place and how all recreational can play a role in helping wildlife get through the winter.