shed their antlers annually as a prelude to the regeneration, or re-growth, of
entire shedding process takes a mere two to three weeks to complete, and the re-growth
phase takes place over the summer. The docile male deer that, with the exception
of the male and the female reindeer, solely sports antlers sheds them between
January and April, after the autumn mating season draws to a close. He can do
without antlers at this time, because his need for them in prior months, to attract
and to impress females for his harem of mates, and to fight with his competitors
for the females' affections, no longer exists.
antlers themselves differ from the hollow horns of cattle, in that they comprise
solid bone tissue with a honeycombed structure. Pedicles, or knobby, skin-covered
nubs protruding from the skull, support the deer's antlers, or points, which range
in number from one shaft to eleven branches. The pedicles are a permanent fixture
on the deer's forehead, and are the point from which the antlers annually break
the first year the pedicles appear on the young deer's forehead. The following
year, the youngster sprouts straight, spike-like shafts. In successive years, as the deer matures, his antlers
lengthen. In most species, he acquires additional branches.
the growth phase of the bony antlers, they are covered with a sensitive skin referred
to as "velvet," which is filled with blood vessels that feed the antlers
the vitamins and the minerals necessary to build up the bone, and to promote normal
antler growth. Antler growth spans two to four months, after which time the velvet
is no longer needed, and a ring, which effectively serves as a shutoff valve,
forms at the base of the antlers and cuts off the blood supply to the velvet.
As a result, the velvet withers, dries up, and falls off, often assisted by the
deer, which rubs his antlers against tree bark. The antler regeneration is complete,
and the shedding cycle will resume once mating season in the fall concludes.