Nevada wildlife commissioners have approved a measure making it illegal to collect the felled antlers of deer and elk from early winter to spring.
The board unanimously adopted the rule designed to ease the stress on big-game populations during the coldest months, when they are most vulnerable to environmental conditions.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports the action taken by the board Saturday in Reno prohibits “shed hunting” from Jan. 1 to April 15.
A proposal to require a Nevada hunting license to collect antlers, which are dropped by the animals every winter, was not approved by the board.
The seasonal ban on antler collection mirrors what other Western states are doing to reduce stress on the animals during the winter months.
Collecting antlers is a growing pastime that can be lucrative. Rob Buonamici, law enforcement division chief for the Nevada Department of Wildlife, said gathering shed antlers has grown in popularity in recent years, both for hobbyists and commercial interests.
“This was something unheard of 20 years ago,” Buonamici said.
But there has been growing awareness that shed antlers have value, Buonamici said.
“The price is somewhere around $9 to $12 a pound for elk antlers,” he said. “If you find a matched set from a trophy bull elk, they could be worth from $500 to thousands of dollars.”
The antlers are used in a variety of ways, including as chandeliers, furniture or other decorative items.
Nevada’s estimated 17,000 elk are found throughout much of the state. The state’s 110,000 deer are likewise found throughout much of the state.
Most collectors have no intention of harming wildlife, but if they disrupt wintering populations of deer and elk they can do harm, Buonamici said.
There have also been extreme incidents where a collector sees an Elk with a trophy set of antlers still partially attached and uses an all-terrain vehicle to push the animal through trees or brush to get them to fall off.
Collectors can also damage habitat by using ATVs to search for the antlers.
Because other states have regulated the practice and Nevada has not, collectors come to the state during the winter to search for antlers, he said.
“We want people out enjoying the outdoors, but we also want to protect our wildlife resources,” Buonamici said.
Elko resident Chris Jasmine, who has been a shed hunter for many years, said he does not oppose regulations that seek to reduce the stress on wildlife during the critical winter months by restricting the activity.
But with any new law or rule, it is all about the enforcement, he said.
Jasmine, who sells antlers, uses them for decoration and in his small woodworking business. He said otherwise law-abiding people will be penalized for following the rules while others will ignore them.