(GUNNISON, Colo.) — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is reminding the public that the collection of shed antlers on all public lands west of I-25 is prohibited from Jan. 1 through April 30.

CPW said the restriction is in place to protect wintering big-game animals and sage grouse from human disturbance during critical winter and early spring months. This time is important as animals are still in survival mode as food is scarce and before the nutritional quality of forage improves in the spring.

“This winter has been harder for wildlife in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties,” said Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Mike Swaro of Craig. “This is a critical time of year for elk, deer, and other wildlife that are trying to survive winter. The last thing wildlife needs this time of year is added pressure from people looking for antlers.”

CPW is working to educate the public about the negative impacts on wildlife caused by irresponsible shed collection and winter recreational activity. CPW said violators of these regulations may face a $137 fine and five license suspension points per violation, in addition to separate fines and points for illegal possession of each shed antler collected outside of the established season.

CPW also said harassing wildlife remains illegal and violations include a $137 fine and 10 license suspension points.

The goal of these regulations is to reduce stress on animals during the time of year when they are vulnerable as CPW says stress can result in decreased body condition, increased mortality, and decreased fawn/calf survival.

CPW encourages people with information about illegal shed collection to call their local CPW office or the Operation Game Thief (OGT) hotline at 1 (877) 265-6648. Tips to OGT may earn monetary rewards, and individuals who call OGT may remain anonymous.

“CPW determined closures were needed because shed-antler collecting has become a very popular recreational activity,” said wildlife officer Cassidy English of Colorado Springs. “To make matters worse, CPW has seen an uptick in unethical behavior by shed-antler hunters who were seen chasing deer, elk, and moose until their antlers fell off. Obviously, this puts undue stress on already stressed out animals.”