The impressive antlers and spiky horns of animals in parts of the US are about to pop off in the literal sense, as the annual shedding begins for animals like deer, elk, and moose. While these animals’ keratinized ornaments have become a hotly sought item for humans’ home interiors, Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) are imploring people to resist the urge to collect fallen antlers.
The plea comes in a bid to protect wildlife at a time of year when their resources are scarce, and energy is precious. Collecting even fallen antlers and horns can have a significant negative impact on wild animals as the act of foraging in their habitat puts them at risk of increased stress.
As such, since 2018, it's been prohibited to collect shed antlers and horns on all public lands west of I-25 from January 1 through April 30, annually, according to regulations outlined on the CPW’s website.
“The purpose of this regulation is to reduce stress on wintering big game animals during the time of year when big game animals such as deer, elk, pronghorn, and moose are most vulnerable,” they say.
“Stress can result in decreased body condition, increased mortality, and decreased fawn/calf survival. These regulations protect the health of Colorado's big game herds and other wintering wildlife.”
Fat Bear Week is an excellent demonstration of the harshness of winter, as the bears of Katmai National Park have to pack on the pounds to the best of their ability if they’re to survive the winter. This is because they are going into hibernation so need all the stored energy they can get for the long fast.
The same applies to animals like elk and moose because in winter food sources are very limited. For this reason, it’s vitally important that animals aren’t scared away from foraged finds as the calories they lose could be the difference between life and death.
To support the survival of wildlife, the best approach, then, is to give it a wide berth, which is why the CPW have taken steps to put regulations in place.
Antlers and horns are important tools for animals, acting as weapons as well as lures for a mate. They are shed when the animals’ testosterone level drops after the mating season, or if the animal suffers a hoof to the gonads resulting in damage.
Nasty business, and it got us wondering: can you die from getting kicked in the testicles?