From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 2 - April 11, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Is it horn hunting or harassment?

by Cat Urbigkit

Is it horn hunting or harassment

How do you feel about the state instituting a "limited quota" antler-gathering season, requiring a permit similar to hunting permits?

Or how about instituting an antler-gathering season for certain areas at certain times of the year?

These are a few "potential solutions" identified as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department once again prepares to address the issue of wildlife harassment, with circulation of a questionnaire addressing the issue.

According to the WG&F letter accompanying the questionnaire, the agency regards harassment "as any activity that unnecessarily compromises an animal’s ability to survive the winter."

This wintering wildlife harassment is increasing, according to WG&F, and generally occurs due to a variety of human activities, including antler hunting, photography, snowmobiling, off-road vehicle (ORV) use and skiing.

"Complaints of illegal use of ORVs on public and private lands have also increased," the letter stated. "A high percentage of this type of violation during the winter and spring months is reported to be associated with antler hunting activity."

In addition: "Certain activities, such as antler hunting and winter wildlife photography, can be particularly disturbing to big game as they tend to focus human activity directly on the animal and their crucial winter habitat. Many antler hunters are driven by the demand and high market value of shed antlers. Shed deer antlers are worth from $10 to $20 per pound, with the antlers of trophy-class animals being far more valuable. Antler hunters are disturbing big game more often and pursuing antlers earlier and earlier in the year. Complaints are becoming more common by antler gatherers that the unethical, earliest hunters are rewarded with antlers, while ethical antler hunters that wait are ‘beat out’ of the shed antlers."

WG&F recently completed an in-house survey of its wildlife biologists and game wardens and learned that 77 percent perceived some level of detrimental disturbance of wildlife in their area of responsibility. Potential solutions identified include those discussed at the beginning of this article, as well as vehicle and ORV access restrictions for certain areas at certain times of the year; human presence restrictions for certain areas at certain times; and modification of the existing wildlife harassment statute.

WG&F pointed out: "This problem is not unique to Wyoming. Neighboring states of Idaho and Montana have implemented winter closures to human presence, (ORV) use restrictions, and antler hunting seasons for certain areas."

WG&F will hold a public meeting in Pinedale and other western Wyoming locations to discuss this issue during the last week of May. Meanwhile, those interested in providing input are encouraged to contact the agency with their views. Specifically, WG&F wants answers to the following four questions:

Do you believe there is a detrimental level of disturbance occurring to wildlife on winter range in Wyoming?

If so, where specifically have you encountered this wildlife harassment?

What activity do you believe causes the most wildlife harassment on winter range (Antler hunting, snowmobiling, wildlife photography, etc.)?

How do you believe wildlife harassment could, or should, be addressed in Wyoming?

Send your comments prior to May 1 to Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Attn: Lucy Diggins, 351 Astle, Green River, Wyo., 82935.

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