Minnesota Question of the Week: Why Do Deer Shed Their Antlers

Shed Antler Collecting Season Still Closed
Why Do Deer Shed Their Antlers?
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

St. Paul, MN -(AmmoLand.com)- Q: Why do deer shed their antlers each year?

A: Annual cycles in deer antlers are related to the changing seasons. Deer have adapted their physiology and behavior to respond to seasonal changes, including antler growth and shedding. The environmental cue that regulates antler growth is the amount of day length; the physiological cue is the hormone testosterone.

Simply put, the changing day lengths are sensed by the eyes, which send this message through the optic nerve to the pineal gland located at the base of the brain. The declining day length in late fall and early winter causes a decrease in testosterone, which results in antler shedding.

The actual process of antler shedding involves a thin layer of tissue destruction that forms between the antler and the pedicle, called the abscission layer. The degeneration of the bone-to-bone bond between the antler and the pedicle is considered to be the fastest deterioration of living tissue known in the animal kingdom.

Michelle Carstensen, DNR wildlife health program supervisor

About Minnesota Department of Natural Resources:

The mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MNDNR) is to work with citizens to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.

For more information, visit: www.dnr.state.mn.us.

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john
john
4 years ago

Jim is correct, in the late spring and early summer we hunt for dropped antlers and have found far too many tangled up in pillow cases.

Jim
Jim
4 years ago

All wrong. In the winter they cannot lay down on down fill pillows–antlers poke holes in them and the down escapes.

Oldfart
Oldfart
4 years ago

Fancy expiation for, they shed them so they can grow bigger ones.