What happens to the elk antlers from the Elk Refuge?
December 22, 2004
Once you’ve seen all those elk at the National Elk Refuge each winter, the next natural question is, ‘What happens to all those huge antlers the bulls shed each year?’ On the third Saturday each May, Jackson hosts the annual Jackson Boy Scout Antler Auction. Each spring, the scouts and National Elk Refuge personnel collect the antlers that the bulls have shed between the months of March to early May. The auction sells nearly five tons (10,000 pounds, 4545 kilograms) within about two hours each year. Eighty percent (80%) of the proceeds from the auction are donated by the Scouts to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service toward elk management and the winter elk feeding program on the refuge.
The antler pickup was begun in the late 1950s to reduce damage to feeding equipment, prevent trespassing by antler thieves, and minimize disturbance to elk herds. Today, the local Jackson scouts collect the antlers under a special use permit. More than 200 scouts and adult leaders work with refuge personnel to collect, sort, bundle, weigh and tag the antlers sold at the public auction. Bidders at the auction come from all over. Local buyers, regional craftspersons, export houses, and Asian markets are typical bidders. Antlers are used to craft furniture, chandeliers, knife handles, belt buckles and buttons. In the Far East, the ground antlers are felt to have medicinal properties and to be an aphrodisiac.
Anyone who has been to the Town Square in Jackson Hole has seen the impressive antler arches at the corner sidewalk entrances. These arches were originally built from elk antlers from the refuge.
Annual Jackson Boy Scout Antler Auction