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Stupid waste of taxpayer's money?

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Liberty Belle

Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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northwestern South Dakota
This has to be one of the most stupid ways to waste taxpayer's dollars I've seen for the last week or so! Don't the parks belong to the public? What would it hurt if a member of the public picks up a shed horn and takes it home to decorate his garage roof or entrance gate? In a couple of years that horn will be gone anyway and the guy who uses it to decorate will at least keep it looking nice. This reminds me of the horrible waste of fallen and burned timber that no one was allowed to harvest after the big fire in Yellowstone Park. Those dead tress are still laying on the ground, rotten and ruined, ready to add fuel to the next conflagration.
What will the cost be to the taxpayer when the time comes to fight that fire? And how much do you suppose it costs the taxpayer to pay the deer horn police? Seems like we are always hearing that the Parks system is short of money. If they used some common sense and some management skills, they would be much better off, as would the public. Are all employees of the parks service, whether federal or state, required to leave both brains and common sense at the door when they don that Smokey Bear uniform?

Look, but don't take: Officials remind people that removing artifacts from national parks is illegal.
By Kevin Woster, Journal Staff Writer

The bighorn sheep rams in Badlands National Park capture the attention of thousands of tourists each year.

But they also catch the eyes of poachers who see the majestic rams as a source of money rather than inspiration.
"I've been told that some of our rams are considered to be world-class trophies," Mark Gorman, acting chief ranger at the Badlands, said. "There's no doubt that we've had some significant poaching targeting bighorn sheep in the park."

Poaching is a problem at national parks throughout the country, including the Badlands and Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs. Elk, bison, bighorn sheep and other animals are vulnerable to commercial killers intent on marketing the animals — especially the horns or antlers.

Poachers don't target only live animals, either. They also take the bones and horns of animals that have died or antlers that have been shed by elk or deer — all of which are protected on park land.

Last year, Gorman and other officers at the Badlands recovered the skull of a bighorn ram with a massive set of horns. The skull was taken illegally from the park, but the thief eventually was caught and convicted in federal court and now awaits sentencing, Gorman said.

Park officials had found and noted the location of the bighorn skull, marking the spot with GPS coordinates. They then monitored it periodically and noticed when it disappeared.

During legal proceedings, they were able to identify the skull because they had marked it in a manner that Gorman declined to discuss specifically.

"It'd rather not get into that. But this was a pivotal kind of bighorn-sheep case," he said. "The government markings were still on the skull."

Rangers at national parks use a variety of methods to help thwart poachers. Along with the bone marking, they include increased patrols and backcountry cameras.

At Wind Cave, rangers are especially vigilant this time of year because the park's elk herd is shedding its antlers. Although shed-antler hunting is popular on private land, it is banned on some government property, including national and state parks.

Last year, officers at Wind Cave stopped seven people with elk antlers in their possession. So far this year, one person has been caught and was issued a citation for $250. Four others are being investigated.

"The poaching of elk antlers is a reoccurring problem here," Wind Cave chief ranger Rick Mossman said. "To protect these resources, we've increased patrols and installed surveillance equipment in the backcountry to guard against the theft of these items."

Wind Cave public information coordinator Tom Farrell said antlers and animal parts are considered natural components of the park. Allowing the bones and antlers to cycle back into the environment is part of a natural process that officials want to protect, Farrell said.

"We like the nutrients to go back to the park and its wildlife," he said. "The elk antlers are a source of calcium for animals such as voles, mice, ground squirrels and even elk and bison."

The typical citation for antler theft carries a $250 fine. But depending on the severity of the situation and type of animal parts stolen, the penalty could rise to a maximum of $5,000 and six months in jail.

Black Hills National Forest allows shed-antler hunting by individuals for their own use. But more large-scale collections are prohibited without a U.S. Forest Service permit.

Removing, damaging or destroying bones, antlers and other animal parts is prohibited at state parks and recreation areas. Doug Hofer, parks director for the state Game, Fish & Parks Department in Pierre, said the intent of the regulation was to preserve natural features of the parks — even small, seemingly insignificant items.

"The point of that is, if everybody removed something when they visited a park or public land it would have a negative effect on the area," Hofer said. "Our officers try to use discretion and good judgment when they enforce those laws."

Elk antlers are popular components of Western-style home decorations, as are bison and bighorn skulls. That has created a booming market for skulls, horns and antlers that encourages theft from parks.

Preventing the theft of those items has added to the existing chore of protecting fossils and artifacts in the Badlands, Gorman said.

"We believe we have a tremendous problem with the theft of fossils and paleontological resources," he said. "And we know we've also had a problem with the theft of some kind of animal bones. Bison skulls seem to disappear very quickly."

Mossman has noticed the same trend at Wind Cave with elk antlers, which can weigh as much as 25 pounds each. Before coming to Wind Cave, Mossman worked at Yellowstone National Park, where shed elk antlers could be more commonly found.

"In a 28,000-acre park with the elk herd we have, we should be seeing a lot more antlers than we do," Mossman said. "We just know that a lot of them are being picked up."

In many cases, people find the antlers and don't know that it is against the law to take them, Mossman said. But in other instances, motivations are less innocent, he said.

"We also know there are professionals out there who take the antlers for personal gain," Mossman said.
When I was guiding pack trips in Yellowstone it was made very clear not to take any sheds (Or anything else for that matter) out of the park. One ranger even told me that they placed surveillance cameras at some of the larger sheds. Talk about a waste of money. My cousin said that horn "poachers" used to be very common, but they have mostly stopped.

We took one guy on a trip and he found one of the most beautiful arrowhead that I had ever seen. He snapped a picture of it and threw it into the lake. I almost dove in after it. I picked up an owl feather and put it in my hat, and I thought he was going to have the attourney general after me!! :shock: :shock:

What a bunch of whacko's!!
I agree with you fully, Its stupid that someone can't pick up shed antlers. I have outside the parks and have never even thought of selling them. If they want money out of the deal make a season....in which you can go pick up antlers, kind of like a deer tag.
It's not much different up here either. I live close to a park (the Muskwa Kechika) that is over 63,000 sq. km's in size and it is now against the law to pich up shed antlers. Completely ridiculous. The excuse they use here (like down there) is that they are an important part of the diet of some of the species that use the park. I don't hardly think so but what do I know. The part that bugs me is that it used to be a good scource of antlers for crafts: chandeliers, stools, candle holders, you name it. Whenever I was hunting in there with a pack string I allways brought home as many elk and moose antlers as the horses could carry. If we didn't use them we could sell them for between $7 and $12 US per lb... (at least until mad cow shut the border down on that too...)
Anyway... it seems like one of those ridiculous signs of the times that keep popping up in front of us. And to think they're spending taxpayers money enforcing this nonsense....

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