It’s not that I’ve never seen one before. I’ve seen hundreds. Maybe thousands. We have dozens of them at the Nature Center – sitting out for visitors to touch…
It’s just that I had never found one myself in the woods…
Friday was my day: tromping around Spatterdock Pond, looking to see if there were still any signs of the River Otter. (The kids saw slides and rolls there Monday.) I found mink tracks… but no otter signs.
But what’s this? under a tree, tracks leading up to it, the snow all melted down where the animal had slept… and there, poking out of the snow… my very first… (can you guess?)
…Deer Antler! I was so excited, I forgot to take a picture in situ. I picked it up, brushed snow away, and examined it. A real beauty. It will take up a space about 10 X 11 inches on the shelf. A tape along the curve of the main beam measures 18 inches.
If you want to learn a lot about antlers, you should definitely click on the link below. I won’t even attempt to summarize everything, but here are a few tidbits that I found particularly interesting:
- When the antlers start growing in the spring, they are made of cartiledge, blood vessels and nerve tissue and covered with fuzzy skin called velvet. According to one source I read, bucks in velvet are sensitive and protective of their antlers.
- In the fall, the soft tissue is converted to hard bone as minerals are deposited in the cartiledge matrix.
- Antlers can grow very fast – as much as an inch a day. To provide the developing antler with enough minerals, the body sometimes robs the skeletal system creating a condition known as physiological or temporary osteoporosis. Most of the minerals come from the ribs and shoulder blades which can lose as much as 40% of their calcium content. Through diet, the minerals are generally replaced by September.
- Older bucks lose their antlers from December through February. Younger bucks may hang on to theirs until March or April.
Over the years I have marveled at the fact that I had never found antlers in the woods. You would think that with the amount of time I spend out there and with the size of our local deer population, I would find them all over the place… But this was my first. And I’m so excited!
Learn (a LOT) More: