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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Amazing Antlers

We went hiking today and saw a herd of deer. This is a photo of three of the bucks.

Male deer grow and shed their antlers every year. The antlers are living bone. They normally fall off in January to April. They start to grow again in the fall. Antlers are different than horns (like cow horns). Horns don’t fall off.

Antlers grow from the two hard nubs on a deer’s head called pediciles. When the antlers begin to grow, they are covered with a furry skin called velvet. The velvet feeds the antlers the vitamins and minerals needed to build up the bone.

The antlers grow very fast, sometimes up to two inches a day! They continue to grow for two to four months. When they stop growing, a ring forms at the bottom of the antler shaft. It cuts the blood supply to the velvet. The velvet then dries and falls off.

Bucks use their antlers to attract females and fight other bucks. They also use their antlers to help find food in the snow. As soon as the weather begins to warm, the antlers begin to loosen and fall off.

I like to chew on deer antlers. Amazingly, they are harder than most bones.

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