From the pages of
The Sublette County Journal
Volume 4, Number 27 - 3/2/00
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Respect Wintering Wildlife

The casual wildlife observer may not notice, but the hard truth is that winter is a matter of life and death for wildlife. Many animals, particularly big game, become very restricted as to where they can go due to deep snow. These animals are forced to spend the winter in low elevation areas we have mostly claimed for ourselves. These animals do not prefer this close proximity with people as it always makes their lives more vulnerable, whether it is vehicle collisions, outright poaching, or just general harassment.

Now that mule deer and other big game are shedding their antlers for the year, poaching of these animals will also drop off. However, people's pursuit of their antlers does not end there. Shed antler hunting has become very popular and even competitive in places.

To compete, many compromise their ethics and end up harassing animals to get their antlers. This "harassment" may range from simply being in the presence of animals on their winter range while searching for shed antlers, to actually running the animals trying to get the antlers to fall off. More blatant examples have been reported where animals are actually chased down on snowmobiles and the antlers physically knocked off.

The latter example is obvious harassment in most people's eyes, but many may not realize what hazardous effect their mere presence may have on wintering wildlife. Studies have shown the presence of people causes the heart rate of wildlife to increase, burning more precious energy.

In addition, these people often displace the animals from their preferred wintering areas to places of deeper, sometimes crusted, snow with poorer quality forage. These animals may not succumb to the stress at that time, but more likely during a late winter storm weeks or months later. This is also a very demanding time for pregnant females. The additional stress will cause them to abort their calves and fawns.

There are also laws that apply to antler pickup. Naturally shed antlers that have been legally obtained no longer have to be tagged by a Game and Fish official, even if you plan to sell them in Wyoming. However, if the antlers were being brought into Wyoming from another state, they would require an interstate game tag.

Secondly, if you find an animal that has died from natural causes, or apparently been road killed, with the antlers still attached to the skull plate, you must first get approval from a Department enforcement officer, and the antlers must be tagged with an interstate game tag, before you can legally possess them. Illegal collection of such antlers is punishable with up to a $200 fine and confiscation of the antlers.

The Game and fish Department understands that antler hunting is a long time tradition in Wyoming, and can be a great way to get out and appreciate our wildlife on a spring day. The key here is to do it after the animals have made it though the harsh winter months.

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Copyright © 1999 The Sublette County Journal
All rights reserved. Reproduction by any means must have permission of the Publisher.
The Sublette County Journal, PO Box 3010, Pinedale, WY 82941   Phone 307-367-3713
Publisher/Editor: Rob Shaul