Collecting antlers is not allowed west of the Continental Divide between January and April, but South Pinedale Game Warden Jordan Kraft says that doesn’t stop people. He says the growing popularity of antler collecting is disturbing wildlife, just when the animals need to gain weight in the winter.
More and more people are making money by collecting antlers dropped by mule deer and elk and selling them for $14 to $18 a pound. The antlers are made into furniture, or ground into medicinal teas to sell on Asian markets.
“Any additional disturbance as far as vehicle activity and folks out walking through the winter range, those animals are going to respond like they normally do, which is avoiding that activity,” Kraft says. “Which unnecessarily increases their energy requirements and forces those animals to move daily.”
So this year, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department cracked down on out-of-season antler poaching. Kraft says a fine for antler poaching increased from $250 to as high as $1000, and he says the agency wrote double the number of citations this year: 20 total around Jackson, Pinedale and Green River. And poachers can now lose their right to hunt and even get jail time.
Kraft says some people cache antlers and come back for them later, and the public can help curb such tactics.
“You know, folks that are acting suspicious or parked in locations that appear to be walking into some of these areas that might winter animals, we’re always very appreciative to receive those reports. And to be honest, that’s probably one of our most effective tools in enforcing this regulation is getting good information and tips from the public.”
Kraft says, people who call in and report antler poaching can receive a reward for their help.