Composite image: Foreground show a person with illegally collected shed antlers inside his hoodie (photo provided came with the face obscured); background, illegally collected shed antlers found after a DWR officer followed a violator's footprints in the snow. In both cases the violator had to surrender the shed antlers and faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 10, 2017 | Photos courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
ST. GEORGE — If you’re tempted to break Utah’s shed antler gathering closure prohibiting the gathering of antlers shed by deer, elk and moose this year until April 1, the Division of Wildlife Resources wants you to think again. So far, 16 people have been cited for violating the closure and some of those offenses were allegedly class B misdemeanors.
Enforcing the closure has been a top priority for DWR conservation officers. Since the statewide closure started, officers have spent more than 500 hours watching areas where big game animals congregate in the winter. They’ve also responded to several tips received on the Utah Turn-in-a-Poacher, or UTiP, hotline.
DWR Director Greg Sheehan issued orders first on Jan. 31, expanding them statewide Feb. 3, prohibiting shed antler gathering on both public and private land. The closure order is designed to reduce stress on deer, elk and moose and help more of the animals make it through the winter.
Of the 16 people cited since the closure, DWR Captain Mitch Lane said, several were cited for unlawful take of protected wildlife; in these cases, the take was antlers and horns.
Unlawful take of protected wildlife is a class B misdemeanor. The violators now face fines as high as $1,000.
“Our officers cited these individuals after watching them look for and then pick up antlers,” Lane said. “Or we caught them with antlers in their possession.”
In two separate cases, an officer watched an individual pick antlers up and then stash them away so he could pick them up later. As the violator walked off the mountain, the officer was there to greet him.
“At first,” Lane said, “the individual denied they were shed hunting, even though the officer watched him do it. It was easy to find the evidence, though. After the officer interviewed the person and let him go, he followed the person’s foot prints in the snow, right to the spots where the antlers were stashed.”
The officer then contacted the individual and let the person know that he’d found the antlers the individual had tried to hide. At that point, Lane said, each person admitted they had gathered antlers illegally.
“In each case,” he said, “the person said they knew the shed antler gathering season was closed, but they couldn’t resist the temptation to gather antlers.”
The officers seized the illegally collected antlers. In return, each violator received a costly citation.
In addition to observing people gathering antlers, Lane said, officers have made several cases after receiving tips on the UTiP hotline, 1-800-662-DEER (3337).
“We’d like to thank those who have helped us enforce the closure,” he said. “We encourage people to continue reporting violations they observe or they’re aware of.”
Lane said enforcing the shed antler closure will remain a top priority for DWR officers until the closure ends on April 1.
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This person not only lost lost the illegally collected shed antlers in his hoodie, he also faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 10, 2017 | Photo with face obscured courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
This illegally collected deer antler was dropped by a violator who knew a DWR officer was watching him. The officer still found the antler. And the violator faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 10, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
These illegally collected shed antlers were found after a DWR officer followed a violator's footprints in the snow. Not only did the violator lose the antlers, he faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 10, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
This person didn't know a DWR officer was watching him. The officer seized the illegally collected antlers. And the person faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 12, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
DWR officers seized these shed antlers from the person who illegally collected them. The person who collected them now faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 12, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
After questioning a person who was gathering shed antlers illegally, the DWR officer followed the person's footprints in the snow -- right to one of the places where the person stashed the antlers. The officer seized the antlers. And the violator faces a fine of up to $1,000. Utah, Feb. 10, 2017 | Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, St. George News
This March 2, 2011, DWR photo shows a mule deer buck in Southern Utah. The Division of Wildlife Resources issued an emergency statewide closure order prohibiting people from gathering shed antlers of deer, elk and moose before April 1, 2017. The order is intended to protect wildlife from unnecessary stress during a harsh winter. | Photo by Lynn Chamberlain courtesy of DWR, (photo flipped horizontally), St. George News