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Why Has The Utah Division Of Wildlife Resources Postponed Shed Antler Collecting?

Shed deer antler

For the first time in years, the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources is going out to feed the mule deer in the mountains of northern Utah. These are tough, wild animals that can fend for themselves, so this is not a common management activity. But this winter has been no joke.

“If you have below-normal temperatures, and the deep snow, and they have to rely on those fat reserves, then they’re going to need supplemental feeding.”

Wildlife Section Chief Bill Bates has been watching the winter conditions to determine if the deer need extra help. One of the important factors is when the snow becomes more than two feet deep, at which point the deer can no longer graze on sagebrush. So in Bear Lake Valley, Cache Valley, Kamas, and a few other places, managers have been feeding the deer to ensure their winter survival. They have been getting help from sportsmen in this endeavor, but some people have tried to take advantage of the situation to collect shed antlers.

“We had some places on one of our wildlife management areas where people were throwing out things to attract the deer to them so they’d knock their antlers against fences and things. We thought, well this just doesn’t make any sense to allow people to go in and harass animals on these critical winter ranges in these extreme condition.”

So the UDWR postponed the collecting of shed antlers in 11 affected counties on February 3rd. To be clear, the antlers are already shed, so picking them up off the ground doesn’t hurt the animals. What is damaging is having lots of people in the backcountry, potentially bothering the deer. When an animal gets stressed out, it expends a lot of energy, and right now every calorie counts for survival. After collecting shed antlers was postponed in 11 counties, sportsmen from the other 18 counties called the UDWR offices concerned that antler collectors from northern counties would overrun areas in the southern parts of the state. In response to these concerns, the UDWR shut down shed collecting statewide until April 1st.