Antler growth of the deer species remains quite a mystery to many. This guide will give you your degree in antler-ology.
Deer species, including moose and elk, shed their antlers each year after the mating season (rut) is over. The weapons of dominance are not necessary for the males during the spring and summer seasons and actually fall off. These shed antlers, in turn, become a nutrient source for any animal willing to gnaw on them. They also become the ivory prizes of shed hunters for collecting, crafting. and to sell.
During the summer months, the growing buck and bull (males) antlers are clad in a protective covering of a velvet felt-like substance. This aids in the growth of the antlers. The antlers grow quickly over the summer with the abundance of food and nutrients available. This magnificent Alaskan bull moose sports its summer velvet antlers.
During the onset of autumn, the bucks go into a major change. They bulk up in the neck region, and their antlers harden into weapons of mating war. The velvet covering is rubbed off on trees and also is consumed by the buck itself for nutrients. The annual mating battles during the rut are looming.
Mating season is war. The bucks and bulls in rut fight for dominance with their ivory weapons to win over does. At times they become tangled in antlers, leading to their deaths. Life is tough in the wilderness, even for the animals that make it their home.
In the spring the cycle starts all over again. You may be asking if deer antlers can tell the age of an animal? Scientifically, no. Antler growth is governed by many factors that vary from year to year. These include nutrient uptake, injuries, droughts and any other type of activity that induce stress on the buck during its antler growth season. Old bucks lose nutrients and tend to have smaller antler growth. Points can be a starting point for age, but teeth are the only scientific way to determine the age of a deer.
And now you know all about why the Cervidae species grow and lose their antlers.