Park Service warns visitors not to collect antlers at Bandelier, Valles Caldera

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Deer and elk shedding their antlers is a 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 U.S. Forest Service.

The activity is illegal in the Valles Caldera National Preserve and Bandelier National Monument, and 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 people might think.

''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,” said Park Superintendent, Jason Lott. “Physically and philosophically, it does make a real difference.'"

Bandelier National Monument and Valles Caldera National Preserve are asking the public’s help in protecting resources on National Park lands. Anyone who witnesses illegal activity on National Park Service Lands is asked to 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 nps.gov/band, on Facebook, BandelierNPS.