Wyoming elk antler auction goes online due to coronavirus

Wyoming News September 21, 2020



Wyoming elk antler auction goes online due to coronavirus

JACKSON, Wyo. | BY RICHARD ANDERSON, Jackson Hole News & Guide (AP) — Looking for 400 or so pounds of right-handed elk antlers, slightly used? How about a beautiful 6-by-6 rack with skull cap? Or, if you’ve got a really big project in mind, a trailer full of white antler?

Around these here parts, those aren’t especially weird questions — folks use deer and elk antler for all sorts of things, from home furnishings to art work to simple natural decor around the house or yard — and since the annual spring Boy Scout Elk Antler Auction was scrubbed by the coronavirus crisis this past May, many may be more desperate than usual for a tangle of seasonally grown and shed cervid horn.

So thank goodness the local district of the Boy Scouts of America figured our a way to make sure all those sheds collected off the National Elk Refuge went to good use.

This year, the ElkFest Antler Auction was an official part of the 2020 Fall Arts Festival, with an online auction.

Each winter, male elk drop the antlers they grew all summer and fall to attract a harem of females to mate with and defend them against challengers. Out on the National Elk Refuge, where some 8,000 animals congregate against the cold, they leave behind racks of 20 pounds or more. By springtime, thousands of pounds of elk horn litter the National Wildlife Refuge unit, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported.

For 53 years, Jackson Hole Boy Scouts have through a special permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gone out in April to scour the 25,000-acre refuge. They gather the antlers, bring them to a central storage area where where they are sorted and, if possible, matched into pairs, and then, in mid-May, they are auctioned off on Town Square.

Dozens of people — from artisans to crafters of traditional medicines and just plain curious folks — turn out for the sale, with proceeds that in recent years have exceeded $100,000 being split, 75-25, between the refuge, which uses them to buy the alfalfa pellets the elk get fed through the hardest weeks of the winter, and the Boy Scouts.

Like so many events this year, the 2020 event got called off when COVID-19 looked to be getting out of control in the community and the nation. But the online edition revived the key fundraiser for both organizations and offered the opportunity to bid on antler lots to an even wider group of people, potentially from all around the world.

Some three dozen lots were up for bid, including individual marched pairs, skull caps, beetle-cleaned mounts and pallets of small, medium and large elk horn. Each had a minimum bid, with per-pound rates starting at $10 to $14.

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