The reason that deer shed their antlers is for the same reasons that other animals do.
It helps them to re-grow bigger and stronger ones.
Antlers are a type of bone growth, formed through a process called ‘velvet shedding’.
This process revolves around a soft layer of skin that constricts blood flow to the antler, causing it to fall.
This is usually around the beginning of winter and will remain until late spring when they begin to grow again in three months.
Males use antlers as weapons to fight each other over females during mating season.
Why Deer Shed Their Antlers
Drops in testosterone levels due to falling temperatures at the beginning of winter may cause their antlers to shed earlier.
Shedding the old bone allows the deer’s body to get rid of toxins that have built up over that year.
This helps them to remain healthy while giving them a chance to grow healthier, stronger antlers for the following year.
Based on certain conditions, they will shed their antlers so that they aren’t carrying around extra weight.
Additionally, new growth gives them additional bone marrow which is then drawn into the antler upon its growth.
This provides them with extra nutrients throughout the winter when food is scarce.
They may grow up to 25% faster in the spring when their antlers have been shed.
Antler growth can be triggered by a change in temperature from hot summer days to cold autumnal nights without rainfall, impacting testosterone levels which trigger velvet shedding.
If a deer from another region is introduced to an area where their species doesn’t usually live – such as Scotland or Canada – they may grow longer and larger antlers than usual.
This is due to the reduced competition for food sources meaning that they can keep growing their antlers for longer.
Effects on Pregnant and Ill Deer
If a doe is pregnant and carrying fawns she will not have antlers as she needs to be careful and this would give her less control over where she can go without hurting herself.
Antler shedding also helps the mother to remain calm and focused on raising her fawns after giving birth.
If a deer is ill, it will not have antlers as the growths are caused by testosterone levels which naturally decrease as they grow older.
In some cases, if a deer is very ill, it may lose its antlers all together.
If a deer’s habitat or living conditions have deteriorated to the extent that they are unable to remain either safe, fed, or healthy enough to grow large and strong antlers – it may trigger antler shedding.
The reason why deer shed their antlers is a complex one, with a number of different factors all playing a part in triggering the process.
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