For more than a year we have been watching a pair of yearling, sibling deer frequent the area. We call the doe, “Split-ear”, since she has a deep split running down her right ear, and her brother we call, “Splilt-ear’s Brother” because, well, he’s her brother. FD and I have often wondered if “Mama” of the triplets that we see almost daily, might be the mother of Split-ear and her brother, as we often see the six of them together via game cameras at the feeders. In the spring, just before a doe gives birth to her new offspring, she will hoof off last year’s fawns to protect her new babies and better patrol the area for predators. After about a month, her offspring from the year before are welcomed back into the fold if they wish. Split-ear and her brother kept company together over the spring and summer months, just as our orphaned rehab fawns, Emma and Ronnie, did last year.
Looking at game camera footage last week, we noted that Split-ear’s brother’s antler velvet was beginning to dry and crack. “From the time the new antlers begin growing from the pedicles until they reach their full size, they are covered with a soft skin called “velvet.” Tiny blood vessels in the velvet bring food and minerals to the growing antlers. If you were able to touch this velvet, it would feel very warm because of all the blood flowing through it. This velvet covering also may help keep the deer cooler in the summer by bringing some of the animal’s body heat to the surface where it can escape. An antler in velvet is soft, tender, easily injured, and will bleed if cut. Bucks make every effort to protect their growing antlers; a serious injury could produce a deformed set. Once the three-month, rapid-growth period is over, the antlers begin to harden (mineralize) beneath the velvet.
By September the fully developed antlers have hardened, and the buck’s body starts getting ready for the breeding season. His complex hormone balance changes, and the blood supply to the antlers is cut off. The unnourished velvet dies and begins peeling away from the hardened antlers. As the buck rubs his antlers on trees and brush, he eventually rubs off all the velvet, but until this is accomplished, it is not unusual to see bucks running around with shreds of dried velvet hanging from their antlers. Once more, majestic, polished antlers adorn the buck’s head when the breeding season starts. Then, if the buck is not harvested during the hunting season, he will again shed his antlers, just as he did the year before.” (White-Tailed Deer, TPWD)
FD and I were fortunate enough to witness Ronnie deer shedding his velvet last year. And we were also unfortunate in losing many of our shrubs and bushes to his continual whacking, rubbing, and sparring. Of course we did not mind. It was a tremendous experience to watch Ronnie mature with his first set of antlers, preparing for his first rutting season. But, we were a bit surprised and got a good chuckle out of Split-ear and her brother the other night. Even Split-ear didn’t know what to think!
© 2018 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…