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Wednesday, October 23, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Shed antler hunters taking a toll on winter-weary game

Alfalfa hay is fed to a herd of Rocky Mountain elk at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Naches, Wash. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides daily winter feedings to the elk herd to keep them from having to migrate to lower elevations and neighboring farms to forage. The concentration of elk makes the area a target for shed-antler gatherers in winter and spring. The disturbance can kill winter-weary big game. (Associated Press)
Alfalfa hay is fed to a herd of Rocky Mountain elk at the Oak Creek Wildlife Area near Naches, Wash. The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife provides daily winter feedings to the elk herd to keep them from having to migrate to lower elevations and neighboring farms to forage. The concentration of elk makes the area a target for shed-antler gatherers in winter and spring. The disturbance can kill winter-weary big game. (Associated Press)

WINTERING WILDLIFE -- The growth and competition involved with the hobby of shed-antler gathering continues to pose concerns for wildlife managers throughout the West.

Here's a distrubing KATU TV report from Washington's Oak Creek Wildlife Area, a major wintering area for the Yakima elk herd.

The start of spring means a whole new danger for elk. At a time when many animals struggle to re-adjust to life after winter, people's fixation on elk antlers could prove disastrous.

"They can't recover from the stress we put them under and they're more susceptible to disease, to bad weather, and to predators," said Captain Richard Mann, Fish and Wildlife Police.

This is the time of year when many elk lose their antlers. A pair can easily top $100 on the black market, and it's routine for folks to roam into restricted areas looking for antlers. Often times elk are nearby. As powerful as elk look, they are actually quite fragile.

"When you run them or stress them, they can get so stressed that it actually kills them," Mann said.

Wildlife officials have found several dead elk this month alone. To combat the problem, a dozen security cameras were recently set up around the Oak Creek feeding station.

Wildlife officials in Washington want to remind everyone that trespassing onto protected land could land you a $200 fine. They say the penalties are stiff because the results are often tragic.




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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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