Antler Poaching Felony Earns Fine and Ban 
As Shed Antler Collection Season Nears in Wyoming, Sentence Sends a Warning

A man who poached elk antlers from the National Elk Refuge and adjacent Bridger-Teton National Forest and initiated efforts to sell them — in violation of state and federal law — has been fined $6,000, banned for three years from Wyoming public lands and forced to lose hunting privileges worldwide for three years.

State and federal authorities hope the sentence, announced weeks before Wyoming’s May opening of legal shed and horn hunt season, will deter other visitors from flouting shed antler collection rules.

Two federal agencies — the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service — and a state agency — the Wyoming Game and Fish Department — cooperated in the case.  

“These types of violations are an ongoing problem,” said David Bonham, regional chief of Refuge Law Enforcement for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “As the market value of antlers keeps going up, we are experiencing more theft and trespassing on the National Elk Refuge and elsewhere in the National Wildlife Refuge System." 

The defendant pled guilty to a felony charge of the attempted transport and sale of more than 1,000 pounds of poached antlers, valued at roughly $18,000.  

Illegally collecting and selling antlers is a violation of the federal Lacey Act, which prohibits the transportation and sale of illegally obtained wildlife and their parts. In Wyoming, antler collection west of the Continental Divide is prohibited until May to protect wildlife, including elk, bighorn sheep and mule deer, from the stress of human presence when the animals are weak from harsh winter conditions. Encounters with humans can reduce the animals’ odds of survival.

In addition, shed antlers provide a food source for many animals that the refuge was established to help protect.

Legal antler collection season opens May 1 for Wyoming residents. Under a state law passed in 2023 and effective this year, non-state residents must wait until May 8 to legally collect shed antlers from public lands. Antler collection is illegal at all times on the National Elk Refuge.

Buyers have turned shed antlers into dog chews, buttons, knife handles and wall ornaments. Demand for shed antlers has grown so high that hundreds of cars line up on the entrance road to the National Elk Refuge each year on opening day May 1. (The access road to Bridger-Teton National Forest goes through the refuge.)

"The opening of the shed antler season is a big deal out here," said Chief Bonham. "Refuge Law Enforcement sends in five to seven additional officers for this event each year to serve as first responders. Our goal is to make sure everyone stays safe and prepared for whatever the conditions may be.”

Information on shed hunting rules is available on the refuge website. See also Information on the Jackson Hole Antler Hunt

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