Western states take aim at antler gatherers

Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:40pm EST
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By Laura Zuckerman

SALMON, Idaho (Reuters Life!) - Overzealous antler gatherers face a new flurry of regulation by U.S. Western states trying to stop harassment of deer and elk during critical, food-scarce months.

Hard times have boosted the number of people hoping to cash in on antlers -- technically bones, not horns -- that can fetch as much as $18 per pound ($39.60 per kg) and are used to produce everything from furniture to health tonics in Asia.

But wildlife officials say the practice, extremely popular in Wyoming, Montana and other Western states, threatens wildlife, especially in the winter months.

"It has the effect of harassment on animals when they need all their energy just to survive," said Anis Aoude, big game program coordinator at Utah's division of wildlife resources.

Utah's bids to curb antler enthusiasts failed due to public opposition, but Montana this year passed a law that threatens to strip hunting and fishing rights from trespassers, including antler gatherers, on state wildlife management areas.

Mike Korn, assistant chief of law enforcement for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the law was needed to deter harassment by antler gatherers, whom he said gathered in droves in early spring.

"It's like the Oklahoma land rush," he said. "One second after midnight on the day areas are opening up, you've got people with flashlights, charging around in the dark." He said some even yell at deer, hoping to scare off their antlers.

In Wyoming, a ban on antler gathering on a portion of public land during winter and early spring is poised to go into effect in January 2010.   Continued...

<p>Siberian stags stand in a paddock before being de-horned in the remote Charyshsky region of Altai, 400 km (249 miles) southwest of the regional main city of Barnaul, June 20, 2008. REUTERS/Andrei Kasprishin</p>