UTAH — In an unprecedented move, the Division of Wildlife Resources has issued its first statewide order closing all counties in the state to the gathering of shed antlers.
DWR Director Greg Sheehan signed the emergency closure order Thursday, superseding a Jan. 31 emergency amendment to the 2017 Big Game Application Guidebook. The initial order closed shed antler gathers in 11 of Utah’s 29 counties but the superseding order expands the closure to the entire state.
Closing shed antler gathering statewide “will eliminate a major source of human-caused disturbance to deer and elk during the periods they are most exposed and vulnerable,” states the order signed by Sheehan.
The Feb. 2 order closes shed antler gathering in all of Utah’s counties — on both public and private land — until April 1. Those caught gathering shed antlers anywhere in the state before April 1 will be cited, the order states.
Closing shed antler gathering should reduce the stress the animals are under and help more of them survive the harsh winter, DWR said in a statement.
Once the order is rescinded and antler-gathering on public land is again allowed, DWR officials remind the public to complete the required DWR’s free shed antler gathering course. The course will teach you how to gather shed antlers in a way that doesn’t disturb deer, elk and moose and doesn’t damage their habitat.
You can take the course here online. After completing the course, you must print your certificate of completion and carry it with you while you’re gathering shed antlers.
Why the statewide ban?
After the first closure was signed on Jan. 31, concerns were raised about shed antler gatherers moving to counties that were still open, putting additional pressure on deer and elk there.
“Although winter conditions are generally less severe in the southern portions of the state, snowpack is still above average, and deer and elk are stressed,” Sheehan said.
Extreme, prolonged cold and deep snow conditions are expected to continue for the next several weeks, making it difficult for deer, elk and moose to find food. To help the animals survive the winter, it’s essential that activities that take place on winter ranges be kept to a minimum to reduce stressing the animals.
“These animals and other wildlife in the areas are stressed,” Sheehan says. “They cannot sustain being repeatedly moved around by shed hunters looking for dropped antlers.”
In late winter and early spring, the antlers of deer, elk and moose fall off the animals’ heads. Then, they start growing a new set of antlers. By midsummer, the new set is in place.
“We support shed antler gathering,” Sheehan says, “but we’re asking, through this emergency order, that you wait until April 1 to move through these winter range areas.”
Everyone can help
If you come across wildlife while you’re out hiking, driving, snowshoeing or recreating in Utah this winter, Sheehan strongly encourages you to keep your distance.
“Do not approach, pick up, chase or handle wildlife. Even if you’re trying to help, it’s not good for the animals, and it’s potentially dangerous for you,” he said. “If you see something you’re concerned about, please contact the nearest DWR office.”
- For a list of offices and phone numbers of DWR offices in your area, visit the department’s webpage here.