Collecting antlers is illegal at Bandelier, the Valles Caldera and other National Park Service areas. Courtesy photo
Deer and elk shedding their antlers is a sure sign of spring in the Jemez Mountains. Many people like to collect these “sheds”, which is fine on private land or areas administered by the Bureau of Land Management or the US Forest Service.
However, it is illegal at Bandelier National Monument and in the Valles Caldera National Preserve, as well as other National Park Service areas.
The National Park Service was establish in 1916 and administers NPS lands using the 36 Code of Federal Regulations. The 36 Code of Federal Regulations prohibits the removal of any park property, which includes antlers, bones, or skulls, as well as rocks, flowers, and artifacts like arrowheads, potsherds, or old bottles and cans and more. Anyone caught collecting, disturbing or removing antlers or other items protected by law in Bandelier or the Valles Caldera Preserve can be fined or even barred from the area for life.
Most national park units are considered living museums, where everything is important to the story that is told there or to the natural ecosystem. Shed antlers left on the ground provide an important source of minerals for many small animals. Antlers are bone and are mainly composed of calcium. Humans need calcium to keep their bones and teeth strong and growing normally, so do wild animals. Humans eat a variety of foods, like milk, cheese, ice cream, and leafy green vegetables, to get the calcium they need. For wildlife, calcium is harder to obtain. Small mammals, like mice, voles, chipmunks, and ground squirrels get calcium by gnawing on shed antlers and animal bones. Antlers left on the ground help these animals survive.
Although the gathering of a few antlers is thought to have little real impact on a park, with thousands of visitors coming to an area, or even just a few people illegally gathering quantities of antlers for commercial purposes, the effect can be larger than you might think. Park Superintendent, Jason Lott adds, ”The unchecked collection of hundreds of pounds of antlers can make a difference to wildlife that depend on them and their absence takes away from the wild character of the park that visitors come to enjoy. Physically and philosophically, it does make a real difference.'”
Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve want your help in protecting resources on your National Park lands. If you see or are aware of illegal activity occurring on National Park Service Lands please call the Bandelier and Valles Caldera Crime Tip Line at 505.709.0077.
For information about Bandelier National Monument, contact the Bandelier Visitor Center at 505.672.3861 x 517 or visit www.nps.gov/band, on Facebook, BandelierNPS.