OHV damage such as this at a wildlife management area harms habitat.
Utah's Antler Gathering Ethics course started as a way to reduce wildlife harassment and habitat damage caused by those gathering shed antlers.
(Shed antlers are antlers that fall off the heads of deer, elk and moose in the winter. The animals shed their antlers as part of their annual life cycle. In the spring, they grow new antlers.)
The mandatory online course, available at www.wildlife.utah.gov/shedantler, started in 2009. Unfortunately, recent actions by some who gather shed antlers is still a concern.
"We've seen signs and heard complaints about shed hunters chasing deer and elk cross-country in hopes the running will cause the animals' antlers to fall off early," says Randy Scheetz, conservation officer with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. "It's about the worst thing they could do."
Spring is a critical time for deer, elk and other wildlife. To survive Utah's winters, deer and elk burn fat reserves to supplement a lack of nutritious food. If an animal runs out of fat reserves before warm weather brings green vegetation, it will probably die.
Animals save energy in winter by resting and staying close to feeding areas. If the animals must move to escape a threat, such as a shed gatherer or a dog, they're forced to deplete their fat reserves needlessly.
Utah and other western states are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of vehicles traveling off-road, especially four-wheel all-terrain vehicles and side-by-side ATVs. Some of these drivers are causing major habitat damage through their actions.
To protect the habitat, land management agencies have placed restrictions on off-road travel. Almost all of the agencies have adopted a "closed unless posted open" policy for public lands.
In addition to the land designations, the BLM, the DWR, Tread Lightly!, the U.S. Forest Service, the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration, and Utah State Parks have joined forces to ensure off-highway vehicle riding happens responsibly and safely in Utah. "Shed hunters and other visitors need to act responsibly," Scheetz says. "Otherwise, they're going to kill animals and damage the habitat of the deer and elk they claim to love."