Why Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?

Deer shed their antlers late in the fall or early winter, and a new set of antlers begins to grow in the spring. Deer shed their antlers as they are no longer needed after the mating season.

Most of these antlers are eaten by small forest animals, particularly rodents, for their valuable calcium, salt, and other nutrients. Antlers grow faster than any other form of living tissue. In just three or four months, they can reach a span of seven feet and weigh more than 45 pounds.

Antlers are used for fighting, both ritual fighting and the real kind. They are also badges of authority that determine who is boss of the herd. The bigger the antlers, the more important the deer.

But antlers have some very unusual uses, too. By the time the hot summer comes, the antlers are almost fully grown. They have a great deal of blood running through them.

This blood “throws off” some of a deer’s body heat in hot weather. It works as a kind of built-in air conditioner. Of the fifty different types of deer, in only two types, the caribou and the reindeer, do females grow antlers.

For all the rest of the deer, it is male antlers only!