Shed antler hunting is a great hobby that gets families out into Nevada's vast expanses during late winter and early spring, but those who wish to hunt sheds have a duty to do it responsibly and legally, in order to minimize stress on winter-weakened wildlife and avoid impacts on habitat.
Some people might not realize that elk and mule deer shed their antlers in the winter months, and many members of the sporting and non-sporting public alike, head out to the winter ranges where animals concentrate to collect shed antlers for a wide variety of uses. Prior to this winter, it had been several years since Nevada's wildlife had experienced extreme winter conditions, and this year's badly needed precipitation has come at a price. Animals are more vulnerable to stress than they have been in several years due to the increased energy expenditures associated with staying warm, moving through deep snow and searching for food.
"Wildlife is stressed across Nevada, particularly in the winter range," said Chief Game Warden Tyler Turnipseed. "It's critical that shed hunters, hikers and anyone encountering wildlife give them plenty of space. Harassing wildlife is a crime."
In extreme cases, people use motorized vehicles or other means to pursue deer and elk, hoping the act of chasing them will cause their antlers to drop off. It's a crime to harass wildlife that carries an array of fines and penalties, including suspension of all hunting, fishing and trapping license privileges. Motor vehicles can also cause severe damage to winter range habitat, particularly when off road motorists make multiple tracks crisscrossing the range.
"Shed hunting is a lot of fun, and if people do it carefully and on foot, it can have little to no impact on wildlife and habitat," said Turnipseed. "Every year we hear of instances of improper shed collecting, and in a year like this, responsible shed hunting can make a difference for many winter-stressed animals."
The state of Utah has enacted an emergency statewide closure on shed collecting from Feb. 3 - March 31, creating concerns that many Utah residents may come to Nevada to collect sheds. More people can increase stress to an already delicate situation according to Turnipseed. Game wardens will be patrolling the range to make sure shed hunters follow the law.
To report wildlife crime, sportsmen and members of the public can call OGT at (800) 992-3030. Follow Turnipseed on Twitter for the most up to date information on investigations @Chief_GW_NV.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) protects, restores and manages fish and wildlife, and promotes fishing, hunting, and boating safety. NDOW's wildlife and habitat conservation efforts are primarily funded by sportsmen's license and conservation fees and a federal surcharge on hunting and fishing gear. Support wildlife and habitat conservation in Nevada by purchasing a hunting, fishing, or combination license. Find us on Facebook, Twitter or visit us at www.ndow.org.