Wyo Stock Growers discuss private land implications of antler collection
Casper – In 2014, the Wyoming Stock Growers Association passed a resolution to look at additional authority regulating the gathering of antlers across the state, rather than only west of the continental divide.
“The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission was given the authority to regulate antler hunting on the west side of the continental divide on public lands,” said Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) Director Scott Talbott during the Wildlife Committee meeting at the 2015 Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup on Dec. 1. “Prior to that, we were documenting particularly egregious behaviors.”
To avoid harassment of animals during antler hunting, regulations were put in place.
“The legislature gave us the authority to set parameters on antler hunting seasons,” Talbott added. “It has certainly eliminated the egregious wildlife harassment issues we saw.”
He continued, “As the value of antlers increases and demand increases, we need to continue to take a look at what is appropriate or not through the legislative process regarding regulation of antler collection.”
WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna noted, “We had a directive passed that WSGA staff were to seek legislation for authority to WGFD to regulate collection of antlers across the state as opposed to just west of the continental divide.”
WSGA submitted a letter to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee requesting they move forward with legislation authorizing WGFD to regulate antler collection statewide, but the committee opted not to pursue action at this point.
“The discussion surrounding this issue raises some interesting points,” Magagna said.
Private property concerns
Magagna continued that, although the original WGFD authority came as a result of wildlife harassment, “Our interest is in stopping trespass on private lands. That raises some fundamental questions that need to be addressed at the legislative level.”
The primary question that must be answered is who owns the antlers.
“These antlers are a product of wildlife in Wyoming,” Magagna explained. “Does that mean they are under the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission? In that case, it would be appropriate for the legislature to direct the WGFD to manage the gathering – and perhaps license it, as well as to address trespass that occurs.”
Conversely, he also noted that it could be argued that after antlers fall off wildlife, they are no longer a part of the wildlife or under the ownership of the state.
“I could make the argument that, on private land, they become the property of the landowner,” Magagna said. “If that is the case, there may be felony theft convictions if antlers are taken from private land. If the antlers fall off onto public lands, then in who’s ownership do they fall?”
The question is wrought with issues, and Magagna said, “I think we need to take time to work through the more fundamental issues.”
With the value of antlers increasing, WSGA member Garrett Falkenberg of Douglas noted that a trespass fine of $400 isn’t incentive to not trespass for antlers worth upwards of $1,000.
“In that case, we aren’t going to teach these people anything for trespassing,” Falkenberg said. “We’ve just hardened the criminal because they are making money.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.