Antlers are formed of real bone and are nourished by blood transported in the outer velvet covering. Velvet antlers have brushy hair and a waxy covering, and they are heated to the touch. Deer require protein as well as minerals to build their antlers. They eat plants that contain these elements or drink water that has been filtered through rock to obtain them.
Deer males grow new antlers each year. The new antlers are called "skins" and are composed mainly of collagen and calcium. The skin grows in two distinct cycles: an active growing season and a dormant winter season. During the active season, cells under the skin divide rapidly; during the dormant season, they divide more slowly. New veins and arteries carry blood to the growing tips of the antler; old ones are discarded. As the bone at the tip of the antler grows, so does the deer, since it is using its own body weight as pressure to push its head forward.
The growth cycle begins with the velvet falling out about a month after mating. Then the deer sheds its old antlers and grows new ones in place of them. This process can be seen every year around February-March time. After four months, the deer replaces its second set of antlers with a third set! By the end of the five-month period, it will have replaced all three sets of antlers.
Antlers are paired, branching structures formed completely of bone that are lost once a year. Antlers early development have a high water and protein content, as well as a silky, hair-like coating known as velvet, which contains blood vessels and nerves. As they age, the antler becomes more solid and less sensitive.
Stags' heads are used for hunting and display. They are also taken during management practices such as culling overpopulated areas or protecting livestock. The skin is usually removed from the head after the antler has grown back in order not to waste any meat or hide. Today, some stags' heads are mounted on boards for display in taxidermists' shops or museums.
Antlers grow throughout the winter months on deer herds located in temperate climates. During spring time, when temperatures increase, blood flows through the veins of the antler, causing them to swell with red blood cells. As summer approaches, the blood vessels constrict to prevent heat loss from the body, causing the antler to drop off. This cycle will repeat itself again the following winter.
There are three main types of antlers: buck, doe, and moose. Each type has several variations based on size, color, and shape. Although most people think of antlers as being only from males, females can also grow them.
Velvet When the antlers are developing, they are densely packed with nerves and blood arteries and coated in a hairy skin-covering tissue known as "velvet." Antler growth is analogous to the construction of a skyscraper. First comes the idea, then the design, which is refined through many iterations before being built. As the building rises, so does its architect, removing old elements and adding new ones until it is exactly what he or she wants it to be.
When an animal dies, its owner(s) will usually remove their trophy by cutting off the velvet with a knife or hook. The hair around the dead animal's neck will also be removed if it has been covered in velvet. This leaves the bone visible which can be used as a visual reminder that the animal has been killed. After this, the bones are cleaned of any remaining flesh or skin and stored for future reference by the hunter or his/her family.
Antlers can grow for up to two years after an animal dies, but usually stop growing after one season. Males typically grow larger racks than females, who tend to have higher-quality territories to defend. Animals with large racks may be able to kill more prey per hunt because they can throw their arms out more distance, like a windmill. Females with large racks may use them to intimidate other females away from becoming leaders of breeding groups.
Antlers are slightly spongy as they form and are covered by a soft, moss-like coating called velvet, which gives nutrition and oxygen to the growing bone. This is what people mean when they say an elk is "in velvet."
Elk shed their antlers each year, usually in late February or early March before they enter breeding season. They will rub their heads against trees and other objects to help clean them off of dirt and other substances that might be attached to them. Then, they will put their antlers back on and start the process over again.
Elk populations have increased since 1970, when only 568 existed in the United States. Today, scientists estimate that between 6,000 and 7,000 elk live here in the country. Most of these animals are found in Wyoming and Montana. There are also small populations of elk in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Canada's Alberta province.
Elk are ungulates (members of the suborder Perissodactyla), which means they have two functional toes on each foot instead of four. These are known as centrals and reversals. It is possible to tell an adult female elk from her calf by looking at her central hoof; the center hoof of the calf is reversed (it points forward instead of backward).
Velvet While an antler is forming, it is coated with velvet, a highly vascular covering that provides oxygen and nutrition to the growing bone. Antlers are one of the most pronounced examples of male secondary sexual features in the animal kingdom, growing faster than any other mammal bone. An average-size deer produces an antler spread of about 3 feet long and 1 foot across. Within each deer, the antlers grow in different stages of completion, so they can be used to determine how old the deer is.
When fully grown, an antler weighs around 20 pounds or more. The main portion of the antler is made up of two bones which meet at right angles, creating a three dimensional structure. Each antler grows for about a year before falling off by itself. A new one will appear in its place once the old one drops off.
Antlers are valuable because they are used in jewelry making and as hunting weapons. They have also been used as tools by some ancient civilizations including the Egyptians and the Russians.
Secondary sexual characteristics are traits that occur after maturity is reached for the species, usually in males. These traits may include colorful feathers, skin folds, or patterns on animals; large teeth, horns, or shells on animals; or extra body hair, tails, or limbs on humans. Sexual characteristics vary between species but generally serve to identify the sexes and encourage mating.