White-tailed Deer antlers are typically shed in December or January. Once breeding has taken place, cells start to de-mineralize the bone between the pedicle (where the antler attaches to the deer’s skull) and antler, causing the antler’s connection with the skull to weaken — a flick of the deer’s head and one or both antlers go flying, ridding the deer of these heavy, cumbersome, bony appendages.
It’s a win-win situation for both deer and resident rodents, who scarf up these rich sources of calcium phosphate and protein almost as soon as they hit the ground. Take a close look at the tip of each tine in this photograph and you will see that something — most likely a vole, mouse, squirrel or porcupine — has been whittling away on it, and the antler’s probably only been on the ground for a matter of days or weeks at most. (Once a deer sheds its antlers, new growth starts immediately, though visible antler growth is often not apparent for several weeks.)
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