Blue Mountain Eagle

SALEM – Wildlife managers are urging shed hunters to follow the rules, take care around big game animals, and respect private property.

This is the time of year when many people head out to look for the antlers shed by the state’s male deer and elk. Deer usually shed theirs from late December through March, and elk from late February through early April.

But the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife also cautions that it’s also a critical time for big game, when the animals are at their most vulnerable because there is less food available.

Shed hunters using motor vehicles – or even people on horseback or foot – can force wildlife to move just when they need to be conserving energy.

Some parts of the state known to serve as winter range for big game are closed or have motor vehicle restrictions at this time of year.

Oregon State Police Sgt. Randy Hand says road closure violations can be a problem this time of year.

“In the past, we have had folks off-roading in winter range in their quest to find antlers,” he said. “Protecting winter range is a high priority this time of year and we are looking for violators.”

Following are tips for shed hunters:

• Don’t disturb big game animals: Don’t approach animals or follow the same ones on a daily basis.

• Respect road and area closures intended to protect winter range and wintering big game.

• Don’t take vehicles off-roading. The ground is water-logged at this time of year and off-roading in the wrong place can damage critical wildlife and fish habitat.

• Don’t be in the same spot every day. Deer and elk might need to be in that spot for food or cover, and your presence will keep them from it.

• Keep dogs under control, and don’t let them approach or follow wildlife. State law prohibits dogs – and people – from harassing wildlife.

• Don’t trespass on private property. You always need permission to be on private land.

Antlers are the fastest-growing bone that isn’t cancerous or prenatal. Antlers on deer can grow at a rate up to seven times that of skeletal growth. Elk antlers can weigh 30-40 pounds.

Elk antlers begin re-growing soon after they are shed, with most growth happening in spring and summer months. The antlers are covered by “velvet” throughout this growth period, before hardening to bone in late July-early August for elk and late August-early September for deer. This makes antlers ready in time for breeding season (in September for elk and November for deer), when male deer or elk will fight for dominance using their antlers.

People who collect shed antlers are allowed to sell or exchange them, but certain rules apply. Only naturally shed antlers, antlers detached from the skull, or a skull split apart can be sold or exchanged.

The regulations were created in response to poaching problems in the past. Skulls that are split have less value and are not eligible for record books. These regulations reduce the incentive for someone to kill animals on winter range or out of season, hide the skull, and go back months later and pretend to find it.

A Hide/Antler Dealer permit, at $17, is needed to purchase antlers for use in the manufacture of handcrafted items.

Several ODFW managed wildlife areas and travel management areas are closed during the winter to protect big game on winter range.

Listed in the Big Game Regulations handbook, they include:

• Phillip W Schneider Wildlife Area, near Dayville: Closed to public access Feb. 1 to April 14.

• Elkhorn Wildlife Area, in Baker and Union Counties: Closed to public access Dec. 1 to April 10.

• Bridge Creek Wildlife Area, near Ukiah: Closed to public access Dec. 1 to April 14.

• Ladd Marsh Wildlife Area at La Grande: Lands west of Foothill Road closed to entry Feb. 1 to March 31.

Source: Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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