The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has announced the winter closure of shed antler and horn collection areas across the state.

Areas affected include public land, state land, and Wyoming Game and Fish Commission wildlife habitat management areas. The department said in a release that the closures "help protect wintering big game by limiting stress so they can better survive the coldest and snowiest months."

“The shed antler regulation was authorized by the Wyoming Legislature and adopted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission in 2009 to minimize the increasing disturbance to big game on winter and spring ranges by antler hunters,” said Scott Edberg, Game and Department deputy chief of wildlife. “It’s very important for the survival of our big game animals during the winter months that they do not experience undue stress.”

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulation on collections prohibits anyone from collecting shed antlers or horns on public land - defined as federal lands and lands owned or administered by the commission - west of the Continental Divide from Jan. 1 through April 30 of each year. This excludes the Great Divide Basin.

The Wyoming Board of Land Commissioners also has regulations prohibiting the collection of shed antlers or horns in the same geographic area and time frame as outlined in Wyoming Game and Fish Commission regulation, but specifically for state land. State land is defined as "all parcels of land under the jurisdiction of the Board of Land Commissioners West of the Continental Divide."

Collection is defined by the commission as an attempt to search for, locate, stockpile or possess shed antlers and horns of big game animals.

“Shed antler enthusiasts can help wildlife tremendously by obeying the shed antler and horn hunting  regulation and other winter range closures statewide,” Edberg said. “All wildlife enthusiasts statewide can help wildlife by giving them space over the winter and early spring.”

Two Wyoming men recently were stripped of their hunting privileges for two years and fined $1,550 due to illegal collections.

The department says violations can be reported on the Game and Fish website or by calling the STOP Poaching Hotline at 1-877-943-3847.