DENVER (KDVR) — As winter looks to make its turn into spring in the coming weeks, many wildlife enthusiasts will be heading into Colorado’s great outdoors, but if you’re planning to pick up a shed antler while you’re out there, it’s worth knowing the rules.

Colorado is home to a variety of animals that shed their antlers in the late winter including deer, elk and moose. According to Colorado Parks and Wildlife, this occurs as the males’ testosterone drops a few months after the fall mating season, causing their antlers to fall off.

These antlers, which are frequently used for art and decoration, can be essential sources of nutrients for some animals that have had restricted diets during the winter months.

“Antlers are a source of minerals that can be quickly consumed by forest creatures such as squirrels, mice and porcupine,” a contributor to CPW’s Colorado Outdoors magazine wrote a few years ago after finding shed antlers in the San Juan mountains.

Is there a shed antler hunting season?

In a recent post on its website, CPW reminded outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds that, “collection of shed antlers on all public lands west of Interstate 25 is prohibited from Jan. 1 through April 30.”

While the regulation is specifically for public lands, CPW reminded people that it is also illegal to collect on private land without lawful access to the land.

“These regulations will be most effective and have the greatest positive impact on our wintering wildlife when we work together within our communities to monitor and enforce them,” Area Wildlife Manager Brandon Diamond of Gunnison said in an email from the organization. “Don’t tolerate the behavior of those that would cheat. Let’s make sure we are all doing what’s best for wildlife and help give them a break during their toughest time of year.”

This prohibition was put in place in 2018 and includes additional restrictions for the Gunnison Basin where it is illegal to search for or possess antlers on public lands between sunset and 10 a.m. from May 1 through May 15.

What are the penalties for breaking shed antler hunting rules?

According to CPW, the priority for officers is to educate the public about the impact on nature that removing these antlers can have, but there is also a $137 fee per violation that can be issued to anyone caught breaking the prohibition.

“Comparing shed antler hunting to other forms of recreation isn’t necessarily an apples-to-apples comparison. Shed hunters specifically target our best winter-range habitats where animals are or have been, and the activity is more popular than ever, leading to an increasingly competitive environment. As conservation-minded, big-game enthusiasts, it’s one place where we can collectively minimize potential impacts to wintering wildlife,” Diamond said.

Violations can also include points against any license issued by CPW such as hunting or fishing.