by Wyoming Game & Fish
January 27, 2007
In the Cody area alone, wildlife officials know that at least two bull elk and three mule deer were poached last winter and one deer this winter - not because someone needed the meat - but because someone wanted their antlers.
These incidents have prompted the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to reconsider how they enforce the laws in issuing an Interstate Game Tag, the tag required to possess certain wildlife parts.
"When someone finds a dead buck deer or bull elk in the field, they have stumbled upon a potential crime scene," said the Game and Fish's Cody Region Wildlife Supervisor Gary Brown. "If that same individual cuts the head off of the carcass before notifying us of their discovery, the crime scene is compromised and our chance of apprehending the poacher or poachers is lessened."
According to Brown, protecting wildlife is a high priority. "Our job is to enforce the laws and regulations that protect our wildlife resource and we have a responsibility to investigate the illegal killing of our game animals," he said. "Of course, not every dead buck or bull found in the field has been poached. Predation, disease, weather and old age also kill animals."
When someone finds a skull with attached antlers they must contact a Wyoming Game and Fish Department law enforcement officer as soon as possible and arrangements must be made to game tag the antlers. This same procedure applies to road-killed animals.
According to Brown, the "soon as possible" reference means just that. "With the advent of cell phones, soon as possible will be immediate in some cases and in others, contact should be made as soon as a public telephone or cell phone service is available," Brown said. "Failing to notify us is a violation we will strictly enforce.
"Once we have been contacted and obtain detailed information regarding the dead animal and its location, it is possible that the person who found the skull will be allowed to bring it in and have it properly tagged. If we feel it may have been poached, we will investigate."
If illegal activity is suspected the Game and Fish will likely retain the antlers.
Naturally shed antlers and antelope horns do not require Wyoming Interstate Game Tags nor does the department need to be notified when they are found. All bighorn sheep horns picked up must be reported to the Game and Fish within 15 days for registration, plugging and interstate game tagging.
There are no antler hunting seasons in Wyoming however, the Game and Fish urges all antler hunters to avoid moving elk and deer while they are on their winter ranges, especially when deep snows or cold temperatures persist. Some Game and Fish and U.S. Forest Service winter range areas are closed to all human activity during the winter period.
Although National Forest and Bureau of Land Management lands are open to hunting shed antlers, the activity is not permitted in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. That also includes the fall, when regulated elk hunting is conducted in Grand Teton National Park.
For more information about winter range areas or the proper procedure for tagging or plugging pick-up skulls contact your local game warden or nearest Game and Fish regional office. Notification of a find may be reported to department law enforcement officers and the STOP Poaching hotline (800) 442-4331.
Wyoming Game & Fish Department