One of my readers asked me about the growth of deer antlers. Thank you to Wanderlust Gene for asking this question, as it also made me wonder about how a deer antler grows.
Spending a few days in Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, I was fortunate enough to have been able to capture several bucks at varying ages. These deer are so accustomed to tourists that they calmly graze nearby while the paparazzi take their pictures.
For the many deer hunters out in the world, there are Deer Antler Age Charts available to determine the age of a buck. Deer antler growth begins shortly after birth and is known to be one of the fastest growing tissues known to man. Sometimes growing up to 1/2 inch per day during peak development, the growth of the antlers do rely on the quality of nutrition available.
Shortly after birth, the antlers begin to grow as little nubs. The young buck above is about four months old and his antler stubs are covered with velvet which eventually is rubbed off.
As the young buck begins to grow, so do their antlers. These two young bucks were a little frisky and skittish as the winds were blowing with 20-30 mph gusts on a fresh morning. This deer with the “devil’s horns” is considered to be a yearling due to the spiky nature of his horns.
His bigger brother was more regal and kept a better distance from me. At this point, hunters begin referring to the deer by the number of points on their antlers. This deer would be considered a “6-pointer” and is about two years old.
Along the Shenandoah Valley there are concerns of Chronic Wasting Disease. Worried that the mountain deer might be cavorting with the valley deer, several deer were tagged and had collars with radio transmitters attached. This way park wildlife management can monitor the movements of the deer. After being caught, tested and tagged, these deer will be observed for several months to help establish a wildlife management plan to keep the mountain deer healthy.
This deer is between three to five years of age.
But this is the Granddaddy of them all. This old buck was walking around the road near the cabins of Big Meadows. Seeing the tourists, he stopped and posed and preened for the cameras. Just as Madonna taught him to “Vogue.” Once he decided that enough of his time was given to the tourists, he wandered off in search of a pretty doe. This large buck is well over five years old which is uncommon as many deer don’t survive after the age of five.
I’ve got to admit, I absolutely love deer and can’t get enough of them. Big Meadows is full of deer that are accustomed to visitors. A wonderful opportunity to truly get close to nature.