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White-tailed Deer Bucks Shedding Antlers

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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3 responses

  1. Natasha Atkins

    Thanks, Mary. I had no idea how easy and fast the shedding process is. A friend posted a link to a video about a bull moose shedding his antlers with, as you said, a flick of the head. Thought folks might be interested.

    January 23, 2023 at 8:14 am

  2. Alice

    Mary: do you think those are coyote tracks near the antlers?

    January 23, 2023 at 11:29 am

  3. Gayle Müller

    Here’s a fascinating drone video of a moose shedding its antlers.

    January 23, 2023 at 2:42 pm

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