Antlers A-growing

By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant

A White-tailed Deer buck with velvet-covered antlers, photographed 7/8/09 by Derek Stoner.
A White-tailed Deer buck with velvet-covered antlers, photographed 7/8/09.

One of the many marvels of nature is the rapid growth of antlers on deer.  Summer time is when our local White-tailed Deer are in growth mode, and the buck’s heads are sprouting  ” velvet.”   Antlers can grow an inch a day!

A mature buck munches on apples at night, captured on a motion-sensing camera.
A mature buck munches on apples at night, captured on a motion-sensing camera.

Antlers are an organ unique to members of the deer family.   Every year, the males grow these mineral-filled ornaments on their heads, which help display their dominance within the deer herd.   In the fall, the soft velvet that is full of blood vessels will dry up and the buck will peel away this outer layer, leaving a shiny white rack of white bone with many points. 

A pair of bucks graze in a meadow, fueling the growth of their antlers.
A pair of bucks graze in a meadow, fueling the growth of their antlers.

In mid to late summer, bucks may be seen hanging out together in what are called bachelor groups.  But come the month of October and through the rest of the deer’s mating season(known as the “rut”), males will use their antlers to do battle and sort out who is the boss.  Friendships end in the fall!

Until then, enjoy watching their antlers grow!

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